Toto Wolff’s understudy named and possible Red Bull revelation – F1 news round up

Sam Cooper
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and Jérôme d'Ambrosio

Toto Wolff has handed duties over to others while being away from the paddock of late.

As Formula 1 draws ever closer to its return with the Dutch Grand Prix, here are the stories you may have missed on Sunday, August 20.

With a week to go until race cars hit the track once again, there are plenty of eyes on what to expect for the final 10 races of the season.

From Toto Wolff’s understudy to a possible Red Bull revelation, here are your headlines:

Toto Wolff names Jérome D’Ambrosio as stand-in

With the F1 calendar growing seemingly every year, Wolff has been open about his desire to sit some races out this season in order to protect his mental health.

Wolff missed a few in 2022, including the team’s win in Sao Paulo, but should the Austrian be absent for any of the races this year it will be former Virgin and Lotus driver Jérome D’Ambrosio in his place.

“When I am absent on a race weekend, Jérome will replace me,” the Austrian told Auto Hebdo. “It is true that in 11 years it has only happened three times, but it is a situation that we have to anticipate.

“Now, he has to gain credibility within the team and in the paddock, he still has time, but in case I can’t be there, he will be in my place.”

Read more: Toto Wolff names his replacement as Mercedes team boss

Max Verstappen gives Red Bull 2026 hint

While the focus remains on the rest of the 2023 season, there are one or two glances towards the years ahead.

Naturally, teams will begin to focus on 2024 but with regulation changes to the power unit coming, many will also be keeping one eye on the 2026 season, in particular the engine suppliers.

While it is hard to gauge how far along each of the six suppliers are, Max Verstappen may have given a hint as to the status of the Red Bull project.

“I’m just not sure how many are actually fully aware of how it’s looking,” he said of the Red Bull project, hinting at more progress than is publicly known.

Read more: Did Max Verstappen accidentally reveal Red Bull’s major F1 2026 advantage?

Red Bull prospect Liam Lawson sparks major crash

While F1 is taking a break, there is still on-track action around the world including in Japan with Super Formula.

One driver in that series to keep note of is Liam Lawson who is a Red Bull junior driver and strongly linked with a possible seat at AlphaTauri in the near future.

While the New Zealander has impressed so far, he will be hoping Helmut Marko was not paying attention when he caused a huge crash at Motegi.

Attempting to overtake his team-mate Lawson went off the track before losing control and crashing into Tadasuke Makino and Yuhi Sekiguchi.

Read more: Red Bull junior kicks off terrifying crash sequence in Japan

Charles Leclerc urged to avoid ‘traditional Ferrari driver story’

While there may not have been the lows of last season so far, it has hardly been a stellar year for Charles Leclerc and Ferrari.

With a car that looks decidedly slower than leaders Red Bull, more speculation has been placed on the future of Leclerc whose contract ends after the 2024 season.

The Monégasques, widely touted as one of the best drivers on the grid, has been warned he is heading for “a traditional Ferrari driver story”

“If I may say, it looks a little bit like a traditional Ferrari driver story, where you come in with great hope and then it just starts to slightly sour,” said F1 business expert Mark Gallagher.

Read more: Charles Leclerc told career descending into ‘traditional Ferrari driver story’