Toto Wolff revels in huge W15 gains after ‘completely new’ Suzuka experiment

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff, Mercedes, 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked beyond the grid positions achieved in Suzuka as he hailed a breakthrough for the W15 following a “completely new” approach.

While Lewis Hamilton had been the Mercedes driver getting frustrated with their F1 2024 car, the W15, so far this season, Suzuka bucked that trend as the seven-time World Champion cut a delighted figure after Q3, speaking of gaining clarity over where Mercedes must go from here to improve.

Toto Wolff sees Mercedes positives beyond ‘unpleasant result’

While P7 on the grid for Hamilton and P9 for George Russell may not appear that impressive for Mercedes, less than a tenth gained would have put Hamilton on the second row, though the best part of three-tenths was needed if Hamilton were to trouble McLaren’s Lando Norris who secured P3 on the grid.

Nonetheless, that marks a near half-second gain for Mercedes on McLaren over one-lap versus the 2023 Suzuka visit – where Mercedes were a second off pole – Wolff revealing that Mercedes tried something “completely new” in a bid to unlock the performance which they believe is in the W15, and it certainly paid off.

Hamilton ultimately fell 0.569s short of Max Verstappen’s effort to claim 2024 Japanese GP pole.

“If you can see something positive, it’s that Suzuka is the circuit that was probably one of our worst last year and we’re a tenth away from a solid position at the front. We’ll take that with us,” Wolff told Sky.

“You can always do the maths: One-tenth and you’re on the second row of the grid. Is that good enough or not? I don’t know. An unpleasant overall result. But I can see something positive in the performance.

“There is a tendency that what we tried worked. I don’t think our car was that bad today. We tried something completely new. That brought us much closer to the top, in fact exactly half as close as last year, much closer to McLaren.”

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Now the challenge of race day awaits for Mercedes. Wolff expects Ferrari to be fast, with Charles Leclerc splitting the W15s on the grid, though the long runs from McLaren and Aston Martin in practice suggest they could be in range.

The issue then would be pulling off moves around a Suzuka track which is notoriously difficult for overtaking.

“The Ferrari had the strongest long run,” said Wolff. “I believe that Leclerc will move up quite a bit.

“McLaren, on the other hand, didn’t have such good long runs, [Fernando] Alonso didn’t have such a good long run. But overtaking is difficult. It will all happen in that pack.”

Up front Verstappen will look to make it a hat-trick of Japanese Grand Prix wins on Sunday.

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