Toto Wolff now ‘understands’ Mercedes’ pace fluctuations race by race

Henry Valantine
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff. Zandvoort September 2022.

Toto Wolff in the paddock at the Dutch Grand Prix. Zandvoort September 2022.

Toto Wolff has said he and the team understand why Mercedes’ competitiveness changes from weekend to weekend, and that their Belgian Grand Prix issues were an “outlier” in the context of the season so far.

Mercedes’ qualifying pace at Spa was one of their largest deficits of the season compared to Red Bull and Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton lapping 1.8 seconds slower than Max Verstappen’s fastest effort, with George Russell having been on pole in the previous round in Budapest in July.

The team looked closer to the pace once again around the high-downforce layout at Zandvoort, which Wolff says plays into the strengths of the W13, with a totally different setup required compared to Spa.

The Mercedes CEO and team principal remained coy about exactly what he now knows about Mercedes’ circuit-specific performance, but is pleased to be back in the fight this weekend.

“Yeah, it is a little bit like that,” Wolff told Sky F1 after Friday practice when asked about if Mercedes’ pace fluctuates from circuit to circuit.

“We understand now why that is and you can see it’s all about getting the car in the right balance, be it aerodynamically, also grip wise.

“Spa was an outlier in terms of what our car was like. Here is one of the better circuits and you can see we are right where the music plays, but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Lewis Hamilton said the car is in a “much sweeter spot” compared to last weekend in Belgium, with the team having taken a one-two in first practice, and Hamilton ranking third, just behind the Ferrari cars, in FP2.

Regarding the car’s unique concept, Mercedes have gone their own way compared to most teams – with their ‘zero-pod’ sidepod concept being the starkest visual difference between them and the rest of the field this season.

But despite the exterior differences, Wolff thinks the changes that can be made to improve the car’s pace will happen underneath the bodywork.

“I think it’s more a question of things you don’t see on the car rather than what you see,” he explained.

“It’s obvious we have a narrow sidepod concept and in some other things, the rear floor sticking out more than on the other cars, and certainly that will play a role.

“But much more important is how have we developed the car to run where low on the floor we can’t run it and what does it do to our suspension kinematic, and this is why at the moment it’s just a little bit of trial and error.”