Toto Wolff reveals rival ‘management level’ concerns of illegal US GP challengers

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff has been the most vocal opponent to new F1 teams.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the “feedback” from rival teams backs Lewis Hamilton’s claim that various other cars were disqualification-worthy at the US Grand Prix.

Hamilton crossed the line P2 in Austin, just two seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen in an extremely positive outing for Mercedes as their upgraded floor delivered a step up in performance.

However, Hamilton ended up with zero points to show for it, with he and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc disqualified post-race after the FIA found excessive plank wear on their respective challengers.

Toto Wolff claims “many, many teams” had illegal planks

Hamilton said ahead of the Mexican GP that as per various sources, “a lot of other cars” also would not have satisfied the minimum 9mm plank thickness, but were not tested.

And from the conversations with drivers and other team managers, Wolff believes that is true.

“Yes, that’s the feedback we got from the other teams,” he told Sky F1 when asked if he agreed with Hamilton’s claim that several others car would have been deemed illegal.

“Obviously they are chatting with each other the drivers and also on a management level, I think many many teams were probably under the nine mil [9mm].

“The trick with the programme with the sprint races is the car goes into parc fermé, you can’t adjust it anymore.

“And we thought on Saturday, ‘Hmm, that could be on the limit, but probably with a little bit of a margin’. But we had a new floor, we got more downforce.

“Probably also in the sprint race we didn’t run as much non-DRS laps which smashed the floor more, so it was just the stars were not aligned.”

Asked to clarify whether the upgrade did play a role in the plank wear on the W14, Wolff responded: “That played an element.

“We got more downforce, which is the positive and you’re smashing the car on the bumps that little bit more.” recommends

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Haas and Aston Martin decided to start their cars from the pit lane at the US Grand Prix, having broken parc ferme conditions to make setup changes.

Wolff then was asked why Mercedes did not do this too in order to ease any concerns over the planks, Wolff saying that the teams starting from the pit lane did not have their cars in a strong window, which was not the case for Mercedes.

“I think this is clear cut,” said the Mercedes boss.

“The cars could start in parc fermé, they were either much too stiff, they couldn’t run the car there, or they wanted to do like the Aston Martin’s complete setup changes because they felt they didn’t understand why the car was so slow. That wasn’t the case with us.”

So, disqualification was of course not the result Hamilton or Wolff wanted, but Wolff will take that “every day of the week” when they were challenging for the win, rather than finishing a distant P3.

Asked if in hindsight Mercedes would have addressed the plank and started from the pit lane, or still run the DQ risk, Wolff replied: “I would take the same thing and I would also take the disqualification, because we got it wrong.

“I take a disqualification running for a race win and seeing the performance against running P3 and ending up 25 seconds adrift. So every day of the week I’ll go for the disqualification.”

Hamilton, despite that disqualification, remains in the hunt for P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, his deficit to Sergio Perez 39 points.

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