Toto Wolff defends Mercedes call in response to ‘trash bin’ situation

Sam Cooper
Toto Wolff wears a headset in the garage. Bahrain March 2022.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff watches the track action while wearing his headset in the garage. Bahrain March 2022.

Toto Wolff defended the decision not to pit Lewis Hamilton late on during the Dutch Grand Prix by stating it was a “trash bin” situation.

Hamilton was the only one not to stop of the three main potential podium-sitters as both Max Verstappen and George Russell opted to move onto soft tyres during the Safety Car period caused by Valtteri Bottas’ retirement on the main straight.

While Hamilton had track position, he not only had older and slower tyres than Verstappen but Russell no longer separated them, which meant the seven-time former World Champion had little chance of defending against the charging Red Bull.

Verstappen picked up a tow from Hamilton immediately after the Safety Car period ended and was able to overtake him on the pits straight before racing away to victory. The day got worse for Hamilton as he was then overtaken by not only Russell but Charles Leclerc too.

Hamilton was furious with the team’s call to pit Russell, telling them “I can’t believe you guys f***** me”, but Wolff believes that was the only possible way to win the race.

“First of all, we had a trash bin for the driver,” he told Sky Sports F1. “It’s highly emotional. You’re that close, you’re bracing for the win and then you’re eaten up.

“So it’s clear that every emotion comes out and as a driver, you’re in a cockpit, you’re alone. You don’t see what’s happening. We discussed in a moment ‘are we taking risk for the race win? Yes, we are taking risks’.

“He had a tyre that was five laps old from the medium, holding position was the right thing to do. At the end, it didn’t work out for him but I’d rather take the risk to win the race with Lewis rather than finish second and third.”

Hamilton later apologised for his comments, saying he could not recall what he said but he was “on the edge of breaking point with emotions”.

Wolff said they had two options, both of which would leave them “screwed”.

“You can do two things,” the Austrian explained. “You can either pit Lewis, lose track position against Verstappen and leave George out – screwed. You can pit both – screwed. So it was worth taking the risk.”

It was put to Wolff they could have left Russell out and used him as an extra layer of defence for Hamilton against Verstappen, but the Mercedes boss was convinced that would have resulted in a P2 and P3 and they were willing to risk it for a win.

“If it doesn’t work out, we have both on old tyres. So it would have been guaranteed second and third, but we wouldn’t have raced for the win with Lewis.”

Wolff was keen to stress it had been a good day overall for the team despite Hamilton’s disappointment.

“I just discussed with Lewis, there’s so much more positives to take. Second and fourth, it’s annoying, but we had a good race day, that’s most important, and you’ve got to take risks where we are.”

Mercedes closed the gap between themselves and Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship to 30 points.