Toto Wolff admits Max Verstappen exposed Mercedes flaw in Brazil

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton pilots his Mercedes W14 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez during the Mexican Grand Prix weekend.

Lewis Hamilton pilots his Mercedes W14.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his team were not “adaptive” enough to the intense Brazilian GP weather conditions, a weakness exposed by Max Verstappen.

While the rain lingering around Interlagos held off for Q1 and Q2, the radars showed a heavy downpour was coming during Q3, meaning time was of the essence to get a banker lap in.

And that one lap was all that the drivers managed, as extreme weather set in from there.

Max Verstappen showed Mercedes not “adaptive” enough

The session was red flagged and concluded as rain, thunder and lightening battered the track, even causing a grandstand roof at the final turn to collapse.

Fortunately everyone was able to stay safe from harm, with Mercedes boss Wolff ruing the fact that his team were caught on the back foot, Lewis Hamilton set to start the Brazilian Grand Prix from P5 and George Russell P8.

It would have been P6 for Russell, but the Brit was given a two-place grid drop for impeding at the pit exit during qualifying.

Verstappen showed urgency at the start of Q3 as he cleared the slow-moving Mercedes pair through the pit exit, with that track time gained proving pivotal in the outcomes of what proved to be a one-lap Q3.

“I think you see the marginal differences in terms of out-laps and temperatures and I think we weren’t adaptive enough,” Wolff admitted to Sky F1.

“The Aston Martins just stormed away, Max straight out of the garage with worn tyres also stormed away and that was the quickest cars and we were eight-tenths off the previous time and it shows you what we should have done.

“I think between P1 and P8, everything was possible. Even in the dry before, you’re out of the garage, you’re first, you have everything in the sweet spot, you’re on pole.”

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With Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll set to start P3 and Fernando Alonso P4, it was put to Sky F1 pundit Karun Chandhok that it must hurt for Wolff to see his team lose out to one of their customers.

Chandhok believes Mercedes will, as is usually the case, grow stronger in race trim, though thinks the disappointment will come from the fact that Mercedes are not yet the second-fastest team at Interlagos, as they were at the United States and Mexican GPs.

“The point is they will still have a faster race car,” said Chandhok.

“I think he’s disappointed because they’ve come off the back of the last few weekends where arguably, they were second-fastest and now this weekend they haven’t been, they’re there or thereabouts.

“But they were Red Bull’s challengers the last two races and it has not happened here.”

Hamilton goes into the race 20 points behind Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who starts the Brazilian GP from P9, as they battle for P2 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Read next: Winners and losers from the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying