Front-running teams have closed up – Wolff

2017 Australian Grand Prix

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The gap between the front-running teams in F1 has closed up over the winter according to Mercedes’ head of motorsport Toto Wolff.

“What we’ve seen from Barcelona is that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk,” he said.

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“We’ll see how that pans out in Melbourne, because we still don’t know about the fuel loads, weights or power settings of the other cars. As the old saying goes, it is when the flag drops that the bullshit really stops.”

Wolff added Mercedes is prepared to discover it may not be the quickest team at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix this weekend.

“We have done the best job we possibly could over the winter and, if we are not the fastest in Melbourne, then it’s about finding out why and what needs to be done to get us back to that top spot,” he said.

“It’s a challenge we will take on with great motivation and energy. Setbacks can provide a long-term opportunity because you constantly need to improve yourself.”

The Mercedes boss predicted the new generation of F1 cars will thrill fans when they see them for the first time.

“Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent – just like Formula One cars should be,” he said.

“I have been out on track watching them and, next to the previous generation of cars, these are properly spectacular cars. From a fan perspective – and a part of me will always be a fan – it really is something special. Any true motorsport lover simply has to see them in the flesh.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Front-running teams have closed up – Wolff”

  1. I suspected/hoped the cars would look more visually spectacular, and generally faster on track, and there seemed to be many naysayers.

    From what I’ve seen, they do look massively quick on track, and definitely seem to hark back to the early 00’s. They look darty again!

    Will be really nice seeing them pushed hard again. Just hope this fuel saving nonsense doesn’t overshadow what should be a cool new era in F1.

  2. Between turns 13 and 14, just before the last chicane I noticed how cars changed directions and found it pretty violent and abrupt. Definitely a lot more speed and grip. I can’t wait to see those machineries in action on the other circuits!

  3. Your one and only the favorite “The Carrot and the Stick”
    Season 2017 premiers from 24th March

  4. “Having spoken to the drivers, these machines are violent”

    I wonder how Alonso’s last year accident in Melbourne would have ended up with these new cars… more speed, later braking point, more chance to rocketed car accidents due to wider wheels, only 26Kg car weight increase… It can be quite dangerous not only for the driver but also for people behind the fences.

    I can’t recall how many accidents in the past led to a driver missing the next GP/session due its physical consequences, but maybe accidents like Sainz in Sochi’15, Massa in Montreal’14, Magnussen in Spa’16, Verstappen in Monaco’15, would have had bigger consequences. I hope not, but maybe this year we are going to see more reserve drivers on action.

    1. Maybe. I sometimes wonder why F1 cars don’t have brake lights or even ‘no-throttle’ lights to prevent that kind of accident. Anyone know why?

      1. I am pretty sure they have brake lights.

        1. You are thinking of those rain lights, which also come on when the MGU-K is harvesting energy from the rear wheels. Please note, that they are NOT brake lights.

      2. Michael Brown (@)
        20th March 2017, 20:35

        Probably for weight-saving reasons.

        What they could do is put brake lights on the rear wing pillars like on the LMPs in WEC.

    2. I really hope Verstappen is also more mature this seasons and does not pull on the dangerous moves that he was doing last couple of years while defending his position. With these “Violent Machines” the results might have lot more bad consequences.

  5. petebaldwin (@)
    20th March 2017, 15:26

    There we go! It feels like F1 is back now that we have Toto talking up Red Bull and Ferrari before they absolutely destroy them in Australia.

    1. Lol, but as I’m sure you know, it would hardly go over any better if TW simply said ‘we are about to destroy the competition in Australia.’

  6. Haha, who can’t laugh after reading that headline? He’s said the exact same thing for the last 2 years. Anyway, bring it on, can’t wait :D

    1. Headline should be “Toto cries wolf again”

      1. Nyuck nyuck!!

      2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
        21st March 2017, 10:32


      3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        22nd March 2017, 13:28


  7. Don’t forget though, last year Ferrari were the strongest team in the race in Australia (which they lost due to the pit strategy). They quickly fell down the order within a few races.

    Whatever the order is this race doesn’t mean that is what to expect over the whole season:

    1. “They quickly fell down the order within a few races”

      Tires problem killed that car.

      1. Break down on development after unfortunate events for Allison. Design team restructured mid season so potential lost. Once all was aligned they were strong at the end of the year battling with RB in last few taces. 2015 they showed good development and caught RB up at end of 2016 after the turmoil in the design department.

  8. Melbourne is a slightly unique and different track, unfortunately that means it’s not going to give us a very clear insight into the current pecking order. It’s still going to give us a better understanding though, I guess.

    I can’t wait to see these cars flying around the really high speed corners like at Silverstone, Spa, COTA, etc. I’m really curious to see if Eau Rouge will still be flat out. I kind of feel like it will be, but I hope it isn’t. I think all the cars have more power this year and their entry into the second part of the section (top of the hill) will certainly be much faster because of the higher downforce level, so it just might be that they’ll have to lift a little. What do you guys think?

    I read on BBC today that Wurz was talking about ground effect in WEC and how it allowed closer following than F1.
    I’m glad to hear that he’s pushing that concept, it’s what I’ve been asking for, for years now. I really hope that the next rule changes incorporate some form of ground effect. I think it’d be relatively easy to standardise ground effect elements on all the cars in a safe and effective manner. Here’s a segment from that article that I’m referring to.

    “An F1 car’s aerodynamics are focused on the front wing. Even the airflow through the diffuser – the back of the car’s floor, which is so crucial to overall performance – fundamentally comes in from the sides of the car having been accelerated around it in a process that starts at the front wing.

    In an LMP1 car, the downforce is generated almost entirely under the floor – just as was the case with F1 cars when the era of aerodynamics properly started back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    Take a look at a car from, say 1982, and you’ll either see no front wing, or a very small one used only for fine-tuning. Like WEC cars, IndyCars in America use this philosophy now, so cars can race closely at 220mph and more on oval tracks.”

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      20th March 2017, 20:40

      Ground effects have a stigma attached to them in F1 because of what happened in the past. Personally I think ground effects should be safely regulated so we don’t get the same incidents of cars losing their ground effect so suddenly.

      At the very least, I want these front wings to be less complicated.

      1. I agree. Maybe ground effect shouldn’t be the only source of downforce as that could be dangerous, but other forms of motorsports use it, so surely the brilliant designers of Formula 1 could do so in a safe manner. I think the FIA could, at the very least, test it out anyway. Modern fluid dynamics could probably tell us if it’d make following easier too, I think.

  9. Yup, epic change of direction, all kinds of massive speed. :D Exciting to say the least. More chance of driver getting it wrong.

  10. Flash Formula
    20th March 2017, 23:24

    Well lets hope it’s true, F1 needs to be more closer, we’ve had seasons in the past that’s been close and others that’s been dominated by 1 team, so from a balance point of view, it’s time to get close again, but lets see how it goes!

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