Wolff: Verstappen only one this year who understood tyres

Wolff: Verstappen only one this year who understood tyres

Wolff: Verstappen only one this year who understood tyres

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted that Max Verstappen may have been the only driver of the Formula 1 class of 2023, that knew how to deal with the Pirelli rubber.

Wolff was speaking after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last Sunday, the final weekend in the 2023 F1 season, on which George Russell finished third, while Lewis Hamilton struggled to ninth after being knocked-out of Q2 in qualifying.

The Austrian was asked about the disparity between his drivers in Abu Dhabi, a phenomenon which has also happened in other teams, Sergio Perez struggling against Max Verstappen, while at Ferrari, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc took turns outperforming each other, the Monegasque bettering the Spaniard around Yas Marina.

Speaking of the performance gap between Hamilton and Russell, Wolff explained: “It’s just difficult to comprehend that good drivers in various teams have this oscillations of performance.

“You’ve seen it this weekend with Sainz and Leclerc. You’ve seen it with George and Lewis. Oscar and Lando and the obvious one is Perez and Verstappen; Perez is not a second slower than max,” he pointed out. “So, what is that?

If the tyres are not managed properly, performance falls off the cliff

“We have seen it swing in both directions. So, fundamentally, I think it’s all around the tyres, if you are able to have the car in a sweet spot, a stable platform that you start to work with in the beginning of the weekend, then you can expect performance.

“I think if you’re not; there is just no performance, you are falling off the cliff literally,” the Mercedes team boss surmised.

“So, I have no explanation for that, I think the only one this year who has understood how to drive these tyres is Max,” he maintained.

Wolff spoke further of Hamilton’s final race of 2023, the seven-time F1 Champion quite despondent after the race, given the dominance Red Bull have shown, Verstappen over 17s ahead of Leclerc at the chequered.

“From Lewis’ perspective, he had a bad weekend, and I think that doesn’t do anything him being the greatest driver in the world,” he said.

“And if we are able to give him a car, he will be fighting for a world championship, I’ve no doubt. It’s clear that when you have a Formula 1 car like we have now, you are never at ease with it. You have good weekends and bad weekends.

“But in the end, every time when we’ve seen that Lewis has someone in his target in front of him, and it was about winning the race, then the real Lewis comes alive. And we just need to give him that,” Wolff concluded.

(Reporting by Agnes Carlier, Writing by Jad Mallak)

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