Toto Wolff F1 rookie admission leads to awkward Andretti question

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff pulling a face while being interviewed.

Toto Wolff pulling a face.

After Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted that several FP1 rookie drivers in Abu Dhabi deserve a place on the F1 grid, Martin Brundle sarcastically suggested Wolff must support Andretti joining the sport then.

The rules dictate that each team must run a rookie driver, deemed as someone with no more than two grands prix of experience, during two FP1 sessions across a season.

And FP1 in Abu Dhabi proved to be a busy hour for teams satisfying the requirement, with 10 rookies part of the 20-driver field.

Toto Wolff has witty reply of his own for Andretti question

One of those rookies in action was Mercedes junior Frederik Vesti, but with the grid unchanged for F1 2024, this marks a further campaign where rookies are struggling to make that breakthrough into F1.

With Sauber junior Theo Pourchaire failing to land a seat for F1 2024, it marks the third year in a row where the Formula 2 Champion has not found an F1 seat for the following season.

Wolff admitted that F1 has a “blockage” currently where these deserving rookies are struggling to make it to F1, despite the talent being there.

“It’s unfortunate, when you look at some of the guys that drove in FP1, there’s a few of them who would deserve to be in a Formula 1 car,” Wolff told Sky F1.

“And at the moment there is a bit of a blockage.” recommends

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One way to potentially solve that would be by adding two more seats to the F1 grid, which Andretti-Cadillac are attempting to make happen, despite the stern opposition to their arrival from existing teams.

Wolff has been one of the most vocal against Andretti, as teams fear the implications of another player getting in on the prize money distribution, so Brundle sarcastically pointed out to Wolff that Andretti-Cadillac being on the F1 grid could help clear this rookie blockage.

“You must be keen then to have Andretti on the grid and two more seats for these young drivers?” Brundle asked with a smile.

Wolff had the ideal response, jokingly agreeing that Andretti could then run the Mercedes juniors.

“Yeah, that would be amazing,” he replied. “Then we could put the young drivers in there.”

In all seriousness though, Wolff revealed why Mercedes did not push hard for an opening that could potentially have come about for Vesti on the F1 2024 grid.

Williams has put an end to the mounting speculation over Logan Sargeant by retaining him for next season, but with the team running a Mercedes power unit and headed by their former strategy chief James Vowles, the lines of communication were surely there to push for Vesti to get a seat.

Wolff though, a former Williams shareholder, said he did not follow this route as he stayed true to his and the team’s late founder Sir Frank Williams’ belief that the team should be independent from such influence.

“When I was at Williams 12, 13 years go, what I always wanted with Frank is to take our own decisions on drivers and have no interference from some kind of big brother,” he said.

“And that’s why I’ve always respected that. We never had any engine contract that gave us or allowed us to put another driver in, so it’s in James’ authority to decide what is good for him.”

Sargeant receiving a second season means the grid is unchanged for F1 2024.

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