Doubts raised over ‘exaggerating’ Toto Wolff ahead of Las Vegas Grand Prix

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff has been the most vocal opponent to new F1 teams.

Formula 1 presenter Tom Clarkson believes Toto Wolff went over the top with his criticism of the Mercedes W14 in Brazil, an opinion shared by ex-F1 racer Pedro de la Rosa.

Mercedes team boss Wolff was despondent after a woeful performance in Brazil, tyre management issues heavily contributing to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell slipping backwards as the sprint and Grand Prix progressed.

Hamilton ultimately finished the Grand Prix P8, while Russell was forced to retire with an overheating Mercedes power unit.

Toto Wolff “exaggerating” Mercedes predicament ahead of Las Vegas GP

Wolff branded the performance “inexcusable”, the worst in the 13 years of Mercedes’ existence, and with two rounds of F1 2023 remaining, the first of those the eagerly-anticipated debut of the Las Vegas Grand Prix, claimed the W14 deserves to remain winless this year.

F1 Nation podcast host Clarkson though feels there was some “exaggerating” going on there from Wolff.

“Their team principal Toto Wolff described the Sao Paulo Grand Prix as their worst weekend in 13 years,” said Clarkson.

“Now, I think he’s exaggerating the point. I thought they weren’t particularly good in Austria this year. I thought Singapore last year wasn’t a great one.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 team principals’ rich list: Net worth figures revealed for Wolff, Horner and more

F1 team principals: How long has each team boss been in charge?

Former F1 racer, now Aston Martin ambassador De la Rosa was then asked for his input, the Spaniard agreeing with Clarkson’s assessment and claiming that a strong showing in Las Vegas will see the pendulum swing the other way on Mercedes’ opinion of the W14.

He said: “Yes, I mean, there is this phrase I love, which says, ‘What people do and what they say they do are entirely different things’.

“So I think that Toto was extremely harsh on the car especially, but I’m pretty sure that they will turn up in Las Vegas, they will have done their homework and they will be fighting for a race win again.

“Let’s not forget that Lewis was second in Austin. Okay, he was disqualified, but he was second. He was also flying in the past few events since they introduced the new aero package.

“So let’s wait and see. I’m pretty sure that if they win the next one, they will say that this car deserves a win.”

The sprint format in Brazil offered any team struggling very little time to alter their car setup, with just one hour of practice before cars went into parc ferme conditions with the start of qualifying.

But, with Aston Martin having struggled to optimise upgrades introduced in Austin, De la Rosa argued that it is not a negative for the spectators to see teams and drivers in a battle with time to tame their machinery.

Asked how easy it is for a setup error to wreck a race weekend, De la Rosa replied: “It is easy nowadays, especially on a sprint weekend.

“Because you enter parc ferme once you qualify on the Friday afternoon, you don’t know how the track will evolve, how much it will go into an understeery or oversteery territory.

“So it is easy to make a mistake with ride heights, for example. And because we came from Austin where Mercedes and Ferrari, they were disqualified for running too low and having too much plank wear, then you are obviously trying to be extra safe, possibly you start raising the car a bit too much, ground effect doesn’t work that well in this type of ride height.

“So it’s easy to get it wrong and once you get it wrong, you cannot change the car setup. You can optimise the balance a bit with the front flap angle and that’s it. You can play with tyre pressures, but that’s about it.

“All the rest is already decided by midday on a Friday and that’s what possibly [happened to] Mercedes. For us [Aston Martin], it was very painful in Mexico and in Austin, but it’s part of the game, we shouldn’t complain about it.

“It didn’t work for Aston Martin in those two race events, but how good was it for the spectators really to make teams, drivers, having to adapt to really difficult cars to drive?”

The Las Vegas Grand Prix marks the penultimate round of F1 2023, before Abu Dhabi completes the campaign.

Read next – Revealed: The team to watch out for at the Las Vegas Grand Prix