Mercedes’ “inexcusable” performance leaves Wolff at a loss for words

Mercedes’ “inexcusable” performance leaves Wolff at a loss for words

Mercedes Formula One team principal Toto Wolff was left frustrated after his car slid backwards during the Brazilian Grand Prix.

His level of misery fell sharply after the Grand Prix itself, as Lewis Hamilton went from challenging for second to eighth, and George Russell retired when on his way to scoring points.

“An unforgivable performance. There are no words to describe it,” a visibly depressed Wolff told Sky Sports F1.

Later to the written media, he described it as “the worst weekend for me personally in 13 years.”

Just as in drag racing, Mercedes’ tires wore out faster than all of its main rivals – resulting in it being overtaken not only by the likes of Ferrari and Aston Martin but also by Alpine and threatened by AlphaTauri.

What really seems to have gotten to Wolff is that he has made the podiums in the US (pre-elimination) and Mexico look like a false dawn.

It will certainly feel like Mercedes has had too many of these since the start of 2022. And this – just a few races from the end of 2023 and having just introduced an upgrade touted as a key indicator of whether the 2024 design theory is in play on the track – has been a bad time. Truly to reveal the false dawn.

“That car finished second last week and the week before that. Everything we did to it (at Interlagos) was terrible,” Wolff continued.

“Louis survived out there. I can’t help but feel for them driving such a miserable car. It shows how tough the car is, on a knife’s edge.”

He added: “We have to develop this better for next year because you cannot be on the podium in seven days, and maybe one of the two fastest cars, and then be nowhere to be found and finish eighth.”

Mercedes was using a higher wing plane than its main rivals, yet that extra downforce wasn’t protecting its tires – while also giving a traction disadvantage on the straights.

Russell – winner of last year’s Interlagos race – said it made it a “mind-boggling weekend to comprehend”.

“We had relatively high expectations and had no pace at all,” he added.

“The same car as it has been for the last five races, so obviously we have something wrong with the tires and in a sprint weekend when you get it wrong you can’t fix those problems.

“When you use more downforce, you’re supposed to gain speed through the corners, keep the tires under control, and that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have the benefit, we only had the negatives.”

As hinted after the race, Hamilton suggested this could reveal an issue with the car’s underfoot performance.

“I think the floor isn’t working,” he said.

“The ground doesn’t suck us down, so we’re forced to move to a higher wing and then we drag a lot on the straights.

“We lose a lot of time on the straights and there’s nothing we can do about it, and then we slip through the corners.”

When asked by The Race if he felt it might be due to a fault in the direction of the setup rather than a fundamental issue with the car, Hamilton replied: “I don’t know. I’m sure there’s something we might have within the setup.” “We were able to do a little bit better. But I can’t say if that means we were further ahead or not.”

Wolff admitted that we “ran the car too high” when asked by The Race whether Mercedes had been too conservative with ride height as a reaction to Austin’s exclusion due to excessive wear of the wood panels.

But he added: “That wasn’t the main reason for the absolute weekend in terms of performance. There was something very fundamentally wrong, mechanically.”

“It’s not a spoiler, and it’s not that the car is a little higher because we’re talking about a millimeter or two. That’s performance but it’s not an explanation for the overall drop.”

Russell at least seemed — in a puzzled and exasperated way — more optimistic that this would be just a blip with a clear, isolated cause.

“There are a lot of question marks. It’s the same car we’ve had since Austin, where the car was able to get on the podium in every race – even before that, Singapore and Qatar were able to get on the podium,” he said.

“Obviously this is a big one-time event.

“We need to understand what we got wrong because right now we don’t really know.”

Back to Wolf. Even last year’s unpopular W13 managed to pull off this win in Brazil.

Did the W14 deserve to win, asked Sky’s Ted Kravitz.

“This car doesn’t deserve to win,” Wolff replied. “We need to push for the last two races and recover, that’s the most important thing, and see what we can do in Las Vegas on a completely different track and in Abu Dhabi.

“But today’s performance was… (long pause) I’m at a loss for words.”

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