Toto Wolff ready to ‘punch myself in the nose’ after ‘very, very brutal’ Australian GP

Henry Valantine
Toto Wolff in the paddock in Australia.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has not been happy with the team's start to the season.

Toto Wolff has described the start of Mercedes’ season as “brutal” and “super tough” to take, after neither driver crossed the line in Australia.

Lewis Hamilton retired following a power unit issue early on, before George Russell crashed out on the penultimate lap while following Fernando Alonso – with the Aston Martin driver later punished with a 20-second post-race penalty after being found to cause turbulent air for Russell behind that may have contributed to his accident.

Toto Wolff looking to overcome ‘brutal’ weekend for Mercedes

Sunday’s outing at Albert Park was the first time since the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix that neither Mercedes driver scored points, and while it doesn’t officially count as a double DNF as Russell was still a classified finisher, Austria 2018 was the last time the Silver Arrows registered a double retirement.

While that could be labelled as a show of just how consistent the team has been over a long period of time in bringing their cars over the line safely, the Mercedes team principal and CEO’s main concern was the underlying pace issues.

He pointed out the 40-second deficit to third-placed Lando Norris prior to Russell’s crash late on, with Mercedes thought to be a direct rival of McLaren in the fight for ‘best of the rest’ behind Red Bull.

Wolff explained the difference in McLaren’s fortunes from last year to this and joked how it made him “want to punch myself on the nose” in frustration, but it’s also a show that a performance turnaround is possible in the right circumstances.

“Tough to take, super tough,” Wolff told reporters of the team’s start to the season after the chequered flag in Australia.

“And I would be lying if I would say at any moment ‘I feel positive about the situation and optimistic’, but you just need to overcome the negative thoughts and say ‘we will turn this around’. But today, it feels very, very, very brutal.

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“I think there were times in the race where we were massively lacked pace and then there were times when, at the end, when you compare like for like we were doing okay.

“Still not where we want to be, but you could see in the second stint, Fernando on the medium, we couldn’t come anywhere close – the lap times looked like a second off the McLarens – and then suddenly, in the last one, when we went for it I think not worrying too much, the lap times were competitive. Not [Carlos] Sainz, but it was much better.

“So clearly, when we started the season in the belief that this car is better than it was last year, and then you look at last year and look at these guys, [Charles] Leclerc crashed out and Sainz was fourth and got relegated to outside of the top 10 because of the penalty, but on the road he was fourth, and McLaren was 17th, 18th, 19th, and [today] they are 40 seconds ahead of us.”

He then added with a slight laugh: “So obviously on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose, but on the other side it is also a testimony that when you get things right, you can turn it around pretty quickly, and you’ve just got to continue to believe.

“But at the moment, it is a very, very tough time.”

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