Toto Wolff bemoans his ‘worst qualifying session in 10 years’ with Mercedes

Jon Wilde
Toto Wolff looking downcast. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

Toto Wolff looking downcast on qualifying day for the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

Toto Wolff has lamented an “unacceptable” Belgian Grand Prix qualifying performance from Mercedes in which they were slower than both Alpine cars.

It was a return to the dark days of earlier in the season for the eight-time consecutive Constructors’ champions when they looked to have more of a midfield car than a front-runner.

In Q2 at Spa-Francorchamps, there were concerns Lewis Hamilton and George Russell might slide into the bottom five and miss out on the top-10 shootout before the duo turned in strong final efforts.

But in the final 12-minute session, in stark contrast to Hungary last time out when Russell snatched pole position, Mercedes were unable to remotely threaten Red Bull and Ferrari.

Hamilton and Russell were seventh and eighth fastest respectively, 1.838 and 2.111 seconds behind Max Verstappen, while it was Alpine who proved themselves the third quickest team on single-lap pace via Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

The one piece of good news for Mercedes was that Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Ocon all have engine-related grid penalties that drop them into the back six, so Hamilton and Russell will line up P4 and P5.

It was a huge disappointment to team principal Wolff, who clearly saw it as a step back after recent good progress with back-to-back double podium finishes and the potential boost of the newly-introduced technical directive which had been predicted to push Mercedes closer to Red Bull and Ferrari.

“You can’t be on pole three weeks before, albeit for very different conditions, different track, and then be 1.8 seconds off the pace at the next one,” Wolff told reporters, quoted by

“So there’s something we totally don’t understand, or seem to get right.

“Clearly, Red Bull are here in a league of their own, as the next Ferrari is eight tenths off. But that’s no consolation.

“It’s for me the worst qualifying session I had in 10 years. And irrespective of what positions we will start in tomorrow, being on pole the previous weekend and three weeks later being nowhere, it’s just not acceptable for ourselves.”

Although the cooler temperatures in Belgium are thought not to suit the W13, Wolff pointed to Hamilton’s comment that driving the car along the straight felt like he had a parachute behind him.

“If we would understand, we could tune it,” said the Austrian, who joined Mercedes in 2013. “There isn’t a positive I heard about how the car performs here this weekend and throughout the weekend.

“So I think now it’s time to consolidate and decide what to do next year.”