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What is Wrong With Mercedes? Toto Wolff Takes a Guess

Shreya Sanjeev

Toto Wolff Cancels Skipping Japanese GP Amidst Mercedes’ Woeful Season Start

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expressed concerns about potential limitations with the W15 during the recent Japanese GP weekend, where the team struggled to capitalize on an unconventional race strategy, something Wolff describes as “awful”.

The captain of the Brackley ship acknowledged a correlation between track temperature and the car’s performance but dismissed it as the primary reason behind their lackluster performance in the race’s initial stages.

Despite high hopes for improvements all packaged in a new car philosophy, Mercedes finds itself trailing its competitors after four rounds of the championship. In its latest outing in Suzuka, both cars failed to exploit the one-stop strategy call made by the pit wall.

Toto Wolff admitted to RacingNews365 that the seventh and ninth-place results were due to their strategy. “It was trying to extend it to one-stop, losing lots of time with the overtakes – more so than the track temperature.”

With only 34 points in their pockets, Mercedes is over 100 points adrift of championship leaders Red Bull. While Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez drink their champagne, the Silver Arrows seem to struggle to comprehend the intricacies of the latest ground-effects of F1 cars and optimize their performance.

At the risk of being overtaken by Aston Martin for P4 in the championship, Wolff addresses the need for the hour. “So, where’s the limitation? I think we wanted to tick some boxes to understand: is there any limitation we have spotted, I think there is.”

Highlighting the complexity of the car’s aero and balance and the need for correlation between the two, Wolff indicates a necessity for a different approach to address limitations to maximize the car’s potential.

Mercedes confuses everyone

Mercedes faced scrutiny for their decision to switch their drivers to new hard tires for the second stint at the Japanese GP, before finishing the race on mediums. Lewis Hamilton defended the team’s strategy, asserting his preference for the set.

Sky Sports’ Bernie Collins characterized the weekend as tumultuous for the team, mentioning Hamilton’s dissatisfaction with being overtaken by George Russell on the same tire and fuel load after the red flag.

Collins explained that the medium tire might’ve felt superior at the end of the race due to factors like decreased car weight and improved track conditions but such preferences are subjective and depend on various factors.

Red Bull’s Christian Horner offered insight into the debate, mentioning a conversation with Sergio Perez, who indicated a hypothetical preference for starting the race with two hard tires instead of the mediums. Horner noted the changing track conditions affecting tire performance.

However, for Mercedes, it did not work out as they lost overall time on the harder rubber, relative to other drivers who finished ahead of them. Except for Leclerc [who pulled off a one-stopper with an extended mediums stint], most drivers in the top 5 ran two stints of medium tires, thus they were faster for over two-thirds of the race, where Hamilton and Russell lost time.

Whatever the take on the Japanese GP weekend; in the bigger picture, Mercedes finds itself in a challenging position on their overall pace. As they navigate the intricacies that plague their car, the team must critically evaluate their approach to maximize their performance and improve an alarming pace deficit to Red Bull.

Post Edited By:Aishwary Gaonkar

About the author

Shreya Sanjeev

Shreya Sanjeev


Shreya Sanjeev is an F1 journalist at the SportsRush. Two years in the field and an ever-growing love for the sport drive her dream to walk around the paddock one day with a mic in hand. A Red Bull fan through and through, her “favorite driver” spot was once held by notable alumni Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, and now, the Dutch Lion himself, Max Verstappen. Apart from F1, she muses in the NBA and cheers on for Steph Curry and his Warriors, while also jumping on the NFL bandwagon.

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