LE CASTELLET, France – ‘We collided mechanically, we collided aerodynamically’: Mercedes boss Toto Wolff makes an uncompromising assessment, in an interview with AFP, of the new reality of his eight-time Formula 1 world champion team between 2014 and 2021, but looking for his first success this season.
QUESTION: Ahead of the 12th Grand Prix of the year out of 22 in France on Sunday, you still haven’t won, for the first time since 2011. Did you expect that?
ANSWER: “We always knew that one day it would be more complicated. We had eight very successful years, pushing 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 face difficulties, and now we are in this situation. »
Q: Were you wrong with your unique aerodynamic solution?
A: “Yes. In Formula 1 the clock never lies and today it says that we are not fast. It is like that, we screw it up mechanically, we screw it up aerodynamically, it is never one thing, it is a combination. »
Q: Can you still win races this year?
A: “Before testing at the Paul Ricard circuit, I would have said yes. Today we wonder why we are one second behind Max Verstappen, 6/10 behind Ferrari, it is far from being able to dream of winning races (interview conducted before qualifying on Saturday, editor’s note). »
Q: Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is sure to be frustrated. But he seems to remain professional. Does this surprise you?
A: “I am not surprised, plus his professionalism in data analysis, sessions, is clear, lucid, transparent, calm. It’s impressive, even for a seven-time world champion. »
Q: Does he internally show signs of nervousness?
A: ” None. On the contrary, the more difficult it is, the calmer it is. »
Q: Will he leave F1 if he doesn’t win this season?
A: “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 hope to see crowned, Verstappen or Leclerc?
A: “Yes, it’s over for the title. It would be good for the sport if Leclerc could continue to play for the championship until the end. Charles is an exceptional driver, a great personality, he deserves to win. I don’t know if he’s any use to him, but if he had a choice it would be him. »
Q: So, are you already looking ahead to 2023?
A: “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 life-size test and at the moment we do not yet have the necessary conclusions to decide on a development trajectory for next year. »
Q: The rules will change, yes, to avoid this problem of the rebound of the single-seaters, which affects you a lot. Could this tip the scales in your favor?
A: “You have to follow the rules. There is some abuse of the flat bottom regulation and that will change for Spa (end of August, technical innovations brought by the FIA, editor’s note) and there will be another stage next year. »
Q: Is this a request from Mercedes?
A: ” Naturally, but they also put pressure on them (Red Bull and Ferrari, editor’s note). The FIA would not introduce regulations on the basis of driver safety if there were no problem. The cars touch the flat bottom on many circuits and that hurts the drivers, so you have to protect them and increase the height of the car. Afterwards, the teams in front don’t want to change the rules and 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?
A: “Yes, it is a bit absurd in this context. But that’s not what I meant. I said I think it lacks freshness this year. »
Q: Do you want a battle like last year between Hamilton and Verstappen?
A: “Yes, it was all for show, with twists and turns, it was a tough fight, and I hope the fight gets more intense for all the fans this year. »
Q: Did you digest the incredible outcome of the 2021 season during the last lap of the last Grand Prix?
A: “You have to digest, of course, forget, never. »
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