Mercedes in ‘dungeon’, says Toto Wolff as team woes continue at Belgian GP | Mercedes Grand Prix
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has made his most public admission about how difficult it is for the team to be beaten by Red Bull and Ferrari this season.
After another harrowing weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix, Wolff called their desperate situation a “dungeon” that was proving harder to manage than anything the team had experienced before.
Max Verstappen won for Red Bull at Spa-Francorchamps with a dominant run from 14th on the grid to a win that underscored his talent and what a remarkable car he has this season. After 14 races and eight remaining, a second title is within reach but Mercedes, in stark contrast, have once again been left stranded by a car they still don’t understand and whose week-to-week performance remains a riddle.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who enjoyed Mercedes dominance by winning six titles with the team – which has won eight constructors’ titles in a row since 2014 – was nearly two seconds off Verstappen’s pace in qualifying in Belgium, noting pointedly that it couldn’t wait to upgrade to next year’s model. Wolff conceded it was hard to bear being relegated in a race as well.
“They say you never lose your learning, I can tell you it’s fucking hard,” he said. “All these beautiful Instagram posts and everything we’ve talked about over the eight years, about how we’re going to take this when you get to the dungeon. To stay true to your principles and your values, to keep your spirits up and to continue to seek relentlessly to improve yourself? Phew. There’s more to write a book about this year than there is about the last eight years.
Hamilton’s race ended on the first lap when he hit Fernando Alonso for an overtake at Les Combes, but once again the real conundrum against Mercedes was evident at Spa and left Wolff and the team perplexed. . Having been so slow in qualifying, they were much quicker in the race, with George Russell taking fourth.
“It’s very difficult to deal with these swings,” Wolff said. “We had a totally below average performance in qualifying and then in the race, sometimes we go three seconds faster on a lap. There are big question marks over what’s going on. That’s not where we should be with the structure and knowledge to understand a race car, but that’s not the case with this one.
Hamilton said after qualifying that he couldn’t wait for next year’s car, but although their hopes have been dashed this season, the team has yet to make a firm decision on the way forward. his new model. Wolff admitted that it was far from a simple decision and that changing a design concept was not an easy, or guaranteed, route to becoming competitive again.
“Whatever we decide for next year must be carefully assessed because clearly our data does not give us the results, does not correlate them with reality,” he said. “We have massive fluctuations in performance that we can’t really control. In this moment to make a decision for next year, to radically change a concept, how can you be sure that this is the best direction to take, because you would clearly fall back? »
Wolff said his decision on next year’s car will be made in the coming weeks and indicated the team believed they could still do better this season with Hamilton’s record of winning a race every year where he participated in the F1 on the line.
“There are race tracks that will suit our car, that’s our ambition,” he said. “But at the same time focusing on next year is clear. The positions are where we are with the top three teams, finishing second or third doesn’t make a difference for me.