Toto Wolff still has support despite woeful ‘Mercedes simply not capable’ assessment

Michelle Foster
The Mercedes W15 with its star decal

The Mercedes W15.

As Toto Wolff’s position is questioned by some quarters of the media in the midst of Mercedes’ struggles, Hans-Joachim Stuck has backed the Austrian to lead Mercedes to glory again.

Losing the Drivers’ title to Max Verstappen in 2021, Mercedes have yet to find their way in Formula 1’s new ground-effect aerodynamic era.

Mercedes are ‘simply not capable of winning’ this year

From bouncing to a car that’s lacking in downforce, their 2022 and ’23 seasons were blighted by an ill-handling car which prompted the team to scrap pretty much every idea they had and go with a more down-the-line design philosophy.

But even that hasn’t worked yet.

With a best result of P5 this season, the Brackley squad is fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, 19 points behind customer team McLaren and a point ahead of Aston Martin.

Stuck, a veteran of 73 Grand Prix starts, believes the former World Champions have made no progress this season.

“They are at the same point as in previous years and ultimately are simply not capable of winning,” was his assessment of Mercedes’ form to Eurosport. “Mercedes is simply not at the level of Red Bull and Ferrari.

“And you also have to talk about Toto Wolff. It is probably an advantage for him that he is a co-owner. If it were a pure Mercedes team, I’m not sure if he wouldn’t have been replaced already – to put it bluntly, because he’s not responsible for it.

“In the current season with all the travel stress, the question now arises as to how Mercedes plans to catch up. The start, as always, was a position assessment. As we know, not much changes after that. Mercedes therefore has a big problem.”

It had journalists in Melbourne asking Wolff if he is the man to pull Mercedes out of their slump.

He replied to that: “We have a physics problem, not a philosophical or organisational problem. We haven’t swallowed a dumb pill since 2021. It’s just we don’t understand some of the behaviours of the car, that in the past we would have always understood.

“I look myself in the mirror every single day about everything I do, and if I believe that I should ask the manager question or the trainer question, I think it’s a fair question, but it’s not what I feel at the moment that I should do.”

Stuck though, says while Wolff isn’t responsible for the car, his job is to find the right people to design and create a race-winning machine.

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But rather than ask if he’s the right man for the job, he needs to ask does he have the right people in place at Mercedes.

“Toto Wolff himself is not responsible for the car’s potential,” Stuck explained.

“He used to be a racing driver himself and knows what is important in this business. His job is to find the necessary levers and adjustment screws and to use the right people in development. Of course, he will put pressure on the developers.

“But he also has to ask himself whether the right people are at the helm there. That is the job of the team boss and for me, Wolff is one of the best.”

Pressed as to whether there is light at the end of the tunnel, the 73-year-old said: “That is of course the question. Toto is the man – and he has to sort this out. As I said, this will be very difficult this season.”

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