Mercedes in ‘no man’s land’ reality amidst concerns of 18 months of ‘more suffering’

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff looks intense at night with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Toto Wolff hopes to avoid another 18 months of misery

Toto Wolff is hoping to avoid another 18 months of “more suffering” for Mercedes but the team boss concedes today their reality is P2 at best as Max Verstappen is unstoppable.

Lining up seventh and ninth on the Japanese Grand Prix grid with Lewis Hamilton ahead of George Russell, the team-mates finished P7 and P9 although on Sunday it was the seven-time World Champion who was behind.

‘This season now is best of the rest, that’s the fight’

Having spoken about “understanding” the W15 and its set-up after qualifying, 24 hours later Hamilton declared that “in general the car was pretty bad” as he struggled with understeer in the Grand Prix.

While Mercedes again fought for the minor points as they never once were in the fight for the podium, Verstappen led home Red Bull’s third 1-2 of the season to extend his lead in the standings to 13 points over Sergio Perez. Red Bull are 21 up on Ferrari.

As for Mercedes, they are a distant fourth on 34 points with Russell their best-placed driver in the Drivers’ standings in seventh place.

It has Wolff declaring the championship this year again belongs to Verstappen with Mercedes at best fighting for second place.

“No one is going to catch Max this year,” he told the media in Japan. “His driving and the car, just spectacular. I can see how he manages the tyres.

“Basically this season now is best of the rest. That’s the fight, that’s all.

“Hopefully we can catch up to the McLarens and to the Ferraris, and fight for P2. This is what it is this year, and what it was last year and we were P2 last year.” recommends

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The updated Drivers’ and Constructors’ standings after the Japanese GP

Wolff determined to avoid ‘next 18 months’ of ‘more suffering’

But asked whether Mercedes will have to wait until 2026 and the new regulations to challenge Red Bull, Wolff said he hopes that is not the case as he doesn’t want another 18 months of suffering.

“If your expectation is eventually race for wins and championships, then you can say we are in a bit of a no man’s land because Max and Red Bull are far ahead,” he added.

“We are in this bunch but it is not satisfying for any team that is fighting for P2 and P3, or P4.

“If I was to look from a purely sporting point of view, P1 is what matters, not P2, P3 or P4, but this is a reality we are facing at the moment.

“We’re trying to do the best out of this new reality, and that is to beat our direct competitors, whilst acknowledging that somebody is just doing a better job and is setting a benchmark that we eventually need to set ourselves again.

“Our ambition is to win races this year, and I wouldn’t want to let that ambition go, certainly not next year.

“But ’26 there’s a big reset which certainly provides the most realistic opportunity for any other team to beat Red Bull.

“But there are one and three-quarter seasons before that, and I don’t want to go through much more suffering in the next, whatever it is, 18 months. I just hope for highlights and a trajectory that’s going upward.”

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