Toto Wolff maybe put too much pressure on Mercedes over W13 issues

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton looking at the screens in the Mercedes garage. Japan October 2022

Lewis Hamilton looking at the screens in the Mercedes garage, discussing with the engineers. Japan October 2022

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff put perhaps too much pressure on the team at times in 2022, but hopes to see the benefits of this moving forward.

It took until the penultimate round of the season in Brazil for Mercedes to record their sole victory of the campaign, their streak of consecutive Constructors’ titles ending at eight as they were left powerless to go for a ninth.

Porpoising was a major issue at first, this bouncing effect a symptom of the new-for-2022 Technical Regulations, but one that impacted Mercedes arguably to the most severe level anywhere on the grid.

But even with understanding gained on how to combat this bouncing, Mercedes were uncovering new issues with the W13, Wolff admitting that he upped the pressure on the team perhaps to a level which went too far.

Asked on the Beyond the Grid podcast how the reality stacks up after he has spoken of needing failure to improve, Wolff replied: “I absolutely believe that. You have to fail and get it wrong to prosper. There is no sports team in the world that won every single championship they entered.

“So the learnings have been tough because talking about it is one thing, but then seeing this phenomenon come back weekend and weekend, it really tests the organisation and it tests your values.

“And I think we had our moments. When I look back, there was a certain degree of pressure, maybe too much that I put on the organisation at times, but it made me learn, learn about the strengths and the weaknesses of the organisation.

“And at the end, it comes back to the sentence ‘the days we lose are the days our competitors will regret because we learn the most’ and hopefully the future will be proof of that.”

Asked if it was at the start of the season where he applied the most pressure, Wolff responded: “No, I think when it sank in that we didn’t really understand how to fix some of the car issues.

“And it wasn’t that it was the porpoising or whether it was a suspension problem, it was basically every stone you turned around had a problem.

“And then we went to Barcelona and we had a solid race weekend and it looked like that we were slowly getting on top of things, and then things are getting dire again.

“We eventually finished the first half of the season with a very strong race and particularly qualifying in Budapest, and then you end up three weeks later in Spa and you’re far off the leaders and the same in Monza.

“So that was at times quite difficult to manage your own expectations, because of Budapest you go onto the Spa weekend saying ‘well, are we able to challenge the front-runners?’ And you find yourself in the midfield.

“But again, this is a lesson. How you manage your own expectations and how to handle if you fail.”

Mercedes did not show the signs of such pressure

To say that Wolff was putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on the Mercedes team at times, we never saw the effects of that on the track.

When teams are in a tricky situation, added pressure is always likely to make the scenario worse, Ferrari for example seemingly getting less and less sure of themselves in the strategy department during 2022 with the analysis of each passing mistake.

Mercedes meanwhile had their goal of dragging more performance out of the W13 and did so. Wolff mentioned Barcelona and Budapest as strong showings, while their best run of the campaign brought the one-two in Brazil, proceeded by two further P2 finishes for Lewis Hamilton, who was in the hunt for victory in Austin.

Perhaps then in Mercedes’ case, the old saying is true that diamonds are made under pressure.

Read next: ‘Mercedes didn’t suddenly take a stupid pill, we got the W13’s concept wrong’