Wolff’s gloomy outlook despite Mercedes double podium

Sam Cooper
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in the paddock. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff looks in the distance in the paddock. Abu Dhabi December 2021.

Toto Wolff refused to let his emotions get away from him after Mercedes’ first double podium finish of the season at the French Grand Prix.

14 races on from the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Mercedes were able to celebrate both of their drivers being on the podium once again at the French Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton finished P2 while George Russell overtook Red Bull’s Sergio Perez late on to secure P3, his first podium since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The result did come with the caveat that Charles Leclerc crashed out in lap 35 having been in the lead whilst the other Ferrari driver, Carlos Sainz, started from the back due to grid penalty for an engine change.

Perhaps with this in mind, Mercedes team boss Wolff was refusing to get too excited about the P2 and P3 finish.

“Delighted would be to win,” he told Sky Sports F1. “But we need to stay humble with our guys just not good at the moment to fight with the guys in front.

“I’m always a little bit pessimistic because I think I need to be. We’re just lacking six or seven tenths to the leaders and whilst we have stabilised in the race and [Max] Verstappen hasn’t been really gaining more ground, he was also looking after his tyres.

“So overall I think the team effort was great. The drivers did a really good job, George clever and fast. Lewis the lion that was just always there, didn’t didn’t let loose. We’re doing the maximum at the moment on race day.”

After qualifying, former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg suggested there would be some “head scratching” going on at the team after the upgrades they brought to Paul Ricard did not translate to pace and Wolff seemed to agree.

“We struggled to bring the tyres in the optimum window and in qualifying, sometimes we have it in the second or third push lap and obviously you’re missing the peak then from the first flying lap,” Wolff said.

“Then in the race you can see that we’re losing three seconds at the beginning of the race or four and then we’re stabilising, we’re actually not so bad.

“So there’s a lot of head scratching going on. But we have the most capable people, the best ones I believe, and at the moment [it] is a little bit trial and error. But that’s great to see that science can also improvise and we [have] got to move fast.”

Wolff was more vocal this race than usual after twice speaking to Russell, who was frustrated that Perez had not been forced to give him the position back after the Brit claimed he had the lead when the two made contact and the Mexican used the escape road to stay ahead and in the race.

The Austrian was praised by his former driver Rosberg who said he did some “awesome psychology” to which Wolff reminded him it was a tactic he had used before.

“It was good with you also no? That bidirectional talking?,” he asked.

“I think as a driver, you’re getting so upset with the situation. You feel that what has happened was just not right. I think sometimes you also don’t see the kind of helicopter view and I felt he had pace at the time and could catch him on track and so I wanted to reset him mentally.”