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Wolff: I want to punch myself on the nose

wolff f1 melbourne mercedes

Toto Wolff exaggerated a tad in the aftermath of a torrid and ‘pointless’ Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton had a DNF due to a technical issue, ditto George Russell who pranged on the last lap.

Punching himself in the nose would have made him look more foolish than he already does leading a sinking ship, with their superstar asset to jumping it to join Ferrari at just the right time.

Wolff’s self-flagellation has been a stuck record since his team confused itself with this era’s aero-freindly F1 rules which, despite a massive about turn around in design philosophy they exposed themselves in Melbourne, embarrassingly too.

On Friday they thought their car was okay. Opted to get smart and go aggressive with the setup on Hamilton’s car, with the goal to find more pace aka better lap times, as setup changes are logically made to make the car go faster. But the #44 was among the slowest in FP2, a second and a half off the pace. Illustrating a fundamental lack of understanding of their package.

On Saturday, Russell outqualified Hamilton (3-0 now) at Albert Park and was in for a handy bunch of points when, on the last lap instead of banking points for P6, he chased Fernando Alonso’s erratic Aston Martin until two into one did not go, and the Merc ended upside down. Game over. Hence, a pointless haul for Mercedes to go home with a painful zero on their Australian GP scorecard.

A car that Mercedes believed would be better this year proving them wrong

Lewis Hamilton Hopeless of Any Improvement in Mercedes - “This Will Be a  Hard Season” - The SportsRush

After the race in Melbourne, Wolff told “I would be lying if I would say at any moment I feel positive about the situation and optimistic. But you just need to overcome the negative thoughts and say ‘we will turn this around’. It feels very, very brutal.

“We started this season in the belief that this car is better than it was last year. Then you look at last year [in Australia] where [Charles] Leclerc crashed out and [Carlos] Sainz was fourth but relegated to the outside of the top 10 because of the penalty, but on the road he was fourth.

“McLaren was 17th, 18th, 19th, and [now] they are 40 seconds ahead of us. Obviously, on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose. On the other side, it is also a testimony that when you get things right, you can turn it around pretty quickly and we’ve just got to continue to believe,” insisted the Austrian.

With Hamilton leaving, no driver lined-up to replace him and hardly a team inspiring a big name (aka Max Verstappen) to join, plus a poor car to contend with for this campaign and probably the next, times are bleak for Mercedes and their boss knows it.

Wolff: We haven’t swallowed a dumb pill

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“At the moment, it’s a very tough time, Wolff admitted. “As a co-owner of this business, I need to make sure that my contribution is positive and creative. So I would be the first one to say, if somebody has a better idea, tell me, because I’m interested in turning this team around as quickly as possible. And I’ll happily give my input and see what that would be or who that could be.”

As for the root of the problem, ‘borrowing’ from McLaren legend Ron Dennis, in his best ‘Ron-speak Wolff explained: “We have a physics problem, not a philosophical or organisational problem because we haven’t swallowed a dumb pill since 2021. It’s just we don’t understand some of the behaviours of the car, that in the past we would have always understood.

“I look at myself in the mirror every single day about everything I do, and if I believe that I should ask the manager question or the trainer question, I think it’s a fair question, but it’s not what I feel at the moment that I should do,” added Wolff.

He concluded by praising Hamilton for “being as good as he can be” and Russell “the fighter” that he is and declaring: “We’ve got to sort this out.”

“This” being that they are fourth, maybe fifth even sixth in the pecking order on evidence of their shenanigans Down Under, way off Sunday’s winners Ferrari and much further behind the hitherto dominant Red Bulls. In other words, a steep mountain to climb for Wolff and his Mercedes team.

Big Question: Toto Wolff denies it but have Mercedes swallowed a dumb pill?