Wolff insists W12 is ‘fully legal’ amid protest talk

Jon Wilde
Close-up of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes. Interlagos November 2021.

Close-up of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Interlagos November 2021.

Toto Wolff says he is braced for any protest from Red Bull, insisting the Mercedes W12 and its controversial rear wing is “fully legal”.

The Mercedes team principal was speaking after a brilliant victory for Lewis Hamilton in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix having started 10th on the grid.

Hamilton overcame a weekend full of setbacks, serving 25 places’ worth of grid penalties across the sprint and the race itself to cut his World Championship deficit to Max Verstappen to 14 points with three rounds remaining.

Besides driving superbly, the seven-time World Champion also had a car that was comfortably the class of the field all weekend, especially when it came to straight-line speed.

Red Bull are suspicious about the reason for that, pointing to the rear wing which they think is flexing too much – just as the equivalent part on their own RB16B had been accused of doing earlier in the season.

There is talk of a protest, but Wolff essentially said “bring it on” when quizzed as to whether he was confident the W12 would pass all inspections – unlike after qualifying, from which Hamilton was excluded due to the gap in the DRS flap being too large when activated.

“The car is fully legal and we are happy to drive it everywhere,” said Wolff, who reiterated the DRS issue had, in Mercedes’ opinion, been caused by damage.

“You can say then was it fully legal after qualifying – we think it was, but it failed one test because the rear wing was broken, the flap was broken.

“I think we are having a much less draggy car, the engine is fresh, which makes a big difference, the concept is good on the straight-line speed than we had in the past.

“The people are free to challenge that and protest, which may happen. We’ll even offer them a rear wing to put it at home in the library or cut it in a thousand pieces.”


Although the title fights are becoming increasingly tense both on and off track, Wolff denied “the gloves are off” in terms of each team trying to find every possible edge to derail their rival.

“It’s not gloves off – I think whoever wins this championship at the end will be the right winner and we’ll always respect that, as long as it’s the same rules and framework for everyone,” said the Austrian.

“It’s part of the game that you look at other parts of other teams, to challenge them. You need to be sceptical and maybe an inch paranoid and that’s okay for us.”