LE CASTELLET, France – “We’ve crashed mechanically, we’ve fallen aerodynamically”: Mercedes boss Toto Wolff gives an uncompromising assessment, in an interview with AFP, of the new reality of his eight-times champion team world of Formula 1 between 2014 and 2021, but looking for his first success this season.
QUESTION: Before the 12th Grand Prix of the year of 22 in France on Sunday, you still haven’t won, a first since 2011. Did you expect it?
ANSWER: “We always knew that one day it would be more complicated. We had eight years of great success, pushed the limits like never before in any sport, winning the world championship eight times in a row. But we have always been prepared that one day we will encounter difficulties, and now we are in this situation. »
Q: Have you gone wrong with your unique aerodynamic solution?
To: “Yes. In Formula 1, the clock never lies and today it says that we are not fast. That’s right, we stuck mechanically, we stuck aerodynamically, it’s never one thing, it’s a combination. »
Q: Can you still win races this year?
To: “Before testing at the Paul Ricard circuit, I would have said yes. Today we ask ourselves why we are one second behind Max Verstappen, 6/10ths behind Ferrari, it is very far from being able to dream of winning races (interview conducted before qualifying on Saturday, ed.). »
Q: Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will be frustrated. But it looks like he’s still professional. Does this surprise you?
To: “I am not surprised, even more his professionalism in data analysis, sessions, of course, lucid, transparent, calm. That’s impressive, even for a seven-time world champion. »
Q: Does he internally show signs of nervousness?
To: “None. On the contrary, the harder it is, the calmer it is. »
Q: Will he quit F1 if he doesn’t win this season?
To: “No, he loves what he does, talking about development, helping the team. I don’t see him leaving F1 anytime soon. »
Q: Is the title permanently lost? If so, who do you expect to see crowned, Verstappen or Leclerc?
To: “Yes, it’s over for the title. It would be good for the sport if Leclerc could continue playing the championship until the end. Charles is an exceptional driver, a great personality, he deserves to win. I don’t know if it’s any use to him, but if I could choose it would be him. »
Q: So, are you already looking ahead to 2023?
To: “The regulations don’t change next year, so we first have to understand what works and what doesn’t work in our car before we get into next year’s car. This season is a full-scale test and at the moment we do not have the necessary conclusions to decide on a development trajectory for next year. »
Q: The rules will change, however, to avoid this single-seater bounce problem, which affects you a lot. Could this tip the scales in your favor?
To: “You have to follow the rules. There is a certain abuse of the flat bottom regulation and that will change for Spa (end of August, technical innovations provided by the FIA, ed) and there will be another stage next year. »
Q: Is it a Mercedes request?
To: ” Naturally, but there is also pressure from them (Red Bull and Ferrari, editor’s note). The FIA would not introduce regulations based on driver safety if there was no problem. Cars hit the flat bottom on many circuits and this hurts the drivers, so you need to protect them and increase the height of the car. Then the front teams don’t want to change the rules, and they don’t know what the drivers are saying. »
Q: You explained that seeing Red Bull and Ferrari too strong distorted the championship. Isn’t it paradoxical for a team that has crushed everything in recent years?
To: “Yes, it is a bit absurd in this context. But that’s not what I meant. I said I think it lacks a bit of crunch this year. »
Q: Do you want a battle like last year between Hamilton and Verstappen?
To: “Yes, it was all for show, with twists and turns, it was a tough fight, and I hope the fight will be more intense for all the fans this year. »
Q: Have you digested the incredible result of the 2021 season during the last lap of the last Grand Prix?
To: “You must digest, of course, never forget. »