Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

“Next year is the tricky one” for Mercedes

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says sustaining the team’s success into the 2020 F1 season will be “tricky” when there is a radical change in the regulations coming for 2021.

What they say

Wolff was asked how he will motivate the team to continue operating at their best after sweeping both championships for six years in a row.

Next year is the tricky one: 2021 is the easy objective.

But at the moment, there is just such a strong, bond within the team that is a good place to work at for me, personally, I take great from contentment, from the relationships within the team that has been a very, very strong part of our success.

I am really, personally, looking forward to the 2020 season to try to be the best us, come up with the best power unit, come up with the best chassis, have the drivers in the right space and contribute to Formula 1’s success overall.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Should we reconsider Pierre Gasly’s performance at Red Bull having seen what Alexander Albon did with the same opportunity?

I don’t really like Pierre, but to his defence if his teammate was, for example, Vettel or Bottas you would have seen his season a lot better and maybe blamed the car for the pace. But Verstappen was so superb up to the summer break that he really carried the team and made the car look better than it was. And to Gasly’s despair, made him look really really bad.

If you look at Albon’s races, he was only marginally better than Gasly, but the car was more developed by half-season and easier to drive, plus Verstappen didn’t have the such a strong second half of the season.

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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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40 comments on ““Next year is the tricky one” for Mercedes”

  1. Cristiano Ferreira
    15th December 2019, 1:11

    Of course 2020 will be a tricky one for Mercedes, just like every year since 2014 is a tricky one for this poor manufacturer that always start the season with the worst car on the grid. Dark times indeed.

    I hope this poor underdog fares well in 2020. Lets pray my friends

    1. sarc is ghey

      1. Better than whatever your comment is supposed to be…

    2. What Toto is getting at is that all their focus will be on trying to STAY ahead, while they shift their focus primarily to the 2021 season, keeping ahead of the curve. Tricky to juggle the current and future programs. Leave the attitude at the door.

      1. This is true, but other teams also have to do the same juggling act and I’d expect Mercedes to be one of the best set up to manage that.

        What might be interesting is whether or not Ferrari or Red Bull decide to keep their focus on their 2020 car much later than Mercedes to try and grab a WCC/WDC at the expense of their 2021 preparation – I’d doubt that there would be any other team that could aim for a glory year as they’re all too far behind.

    3. Cristiano Ferreira = Salty person with no appreciation of the nuances of the sport.

      If you think that Mercedes don’t have a task ahead to retain with the form of the other big teams and simultaneous 2021 development ahead then should put your energy into a more straightforward sport like football.

      1. Cristiano’s comment made me laugh to be honest. Some people are so serious about things.

        I am not sure we need to be too concerned about Mercedes being competitive in 2020..

      2. Cristiano Ferreira
        15th December 2019, 14:48

        RB13 don’t know what irony means it seems.

        Mercedes has a dominant car and the regulations for 2020 will be almost the same, so they only need to tweak their cair a little. They don’t need to play catch up like Red Bull or Ferrari. Also they already proved that they are more than capable to deal with tricky situations.

        Like someone said, this is just standard Toto speak. The same speak we heard for almost the entire 2019 season when they wanted to play underdogs.

        1. I don’t mind the irony, it just seems a bit misplaced since the point has a bit more to it than you’re making out. He’s saying motivation for 2021 is easy, they have a clear objective to build around the new regulations. Next year is the end of the present reg era, though, and so motivating over winter may be trickier, even though Ferrari and Red Bull could be very close in 2020. By the looks of it, the big question for next year will be the power unit, what Ferrari did and may continue to do to get such straight line advantage, whether the other teams may try to replicate whatever they think is giving Ferrari extra performance, how Mercedes address their power deficit to Ferrari, and maybe even to Honda (as Brazil suggested), and whether Honda can push on.

          1. Cristiano Ferreira
            15th December 2019, 21:10

            I don’t think Mercedes has power deficits to Ferrari or Honda. The Ferrari engine seems strange since that FIA thing, and Honda is not quite close yet and seems more like something to do with some tracks than a power advantage they have.

            Abu Dhabi and other venues showed that Mercedes is still confortable in the lead, so they can commit their time adjusting their chassis for 2021 and tweak the 2020 a little bit.

            They are likely to continue where they left off in 2019 while the others must decide whenever its a good deal to try and grab that last title from Mercedes or focus all their resources in the 2021 project and try to dominate from there.

        2. You can imagine whatever you like, but Toto was talking about how it’s ‘tricky’ to find motivation for 2020, compared to seasons that present more obvious challenges. Merc can’t afford to become complacent.

          In any case, this year Mercedes didn’t have a car as dominant as the final standings suggest. It was just that Ferrari kept screwing up. Without the gifts, there would have been a great fight. So Toto was right when he pointed that out during the season.

    4. I love the weepy sarcastic posts from the Ferrari fans.

      The reason Mercedes has been so dominant since 2014 is that they enter every season, every race weekend, with attitude of the underdog. There is no complacency, no security. They’re always pushing to be better.

      When something goes wrong at Ferrari, the first question is “Who do we blame?”… when things go wrong at Mercedes, it’s “How do we do better?”.

      The end result is even with an equal car, or a slightly slower one, Mercedes has a better chance of sustaining a winning streak.

  2. Pretty much standard Toto speak these days.

    I have no doubt that Mercedes will start 2020 where it left off in 2019. The real question will be whether or not either of the other two top teams will actually start the year well or whether they repeat their poor starts that they have had over the last few years.

  3. Regarding the Autosport-article: 2018-cars will be allowed for use on any running outside GP-events and official tests without restrictions anyway starting from next year.

    Although I already replied to the COTD in a separate article here it is again: Maybe it was easier to drive for him because (possibly) his driving-style is closer to that of Max. This is a possible theory that could explain why/how he got to grips with the RB15 quicker than his predecessor despite no chance to test it beforehand. Some drivers seem to struggle more with cars designed around a driving-style different from that of the driver in question than others.

    1. @jerejj
      First of all, I don’t believe that cars are designed around driving styles; it’s a designer’s job to design the fastest car within the given set of rules, regardless of who drives it, and it’s the driver’s job to drive it as fast as possible. (Nonetheless, in season development is probably favoring the fastest driver.) And some drivers are just more capable of adapting than others.
      But regardless of being able to adapt or not, I think the biggest problem for Gasly was his desperate search for the few missing tenths between him and Verstappen, which already during testing resulted in him crashing the car twice, piling even more pressure on himself, and so he fell into a viscous circle of trying to find the few missing tenth, but not crashing the car. And that’s never gonna give the preferred result.
      So when Albon stepped in the car he was fully aware that his main job was finishing sixth, don’t mind qualifying and the seat is yours next year. Which is exactly what he did, and so nobody really minded he was also miles of Verstappen’s pace.
      Next year is gonna be the true test for Albon.

      1. -vicious- circle

      2. I seem to recall Kimi had the steering on his car changed when it didn’t suit his style a few years ago.

  4. Mercedes, the kings of sandbagging

    “This will be the hardest season ever”
    “We were lucky to get this win, Ferrari have a much better car”
    “We may have a 200 point lead in the championship, but our rivals can still catch up”

    “These tyres are destroyed, I have to pit!”
    “This was the most difficult victory of my life”
    “This strategy is not going to work”

    Paraphrasing the multiple world champions for 6 consecutive seasons…

    1. Haha….but for some and certain fans lap it up though.

      I mean imagine if someone like Alonso or Vettel had said it was his hardest season after wining 11 races over the course of it?

      1. @jaymenon10 – I think the media lap it up because it gets us fans all frothing at the mouth about it :)

    2. Why paraphrase? What he said is on the page, so why not respond to that?

      Love it when people paraphase (make stuff up) and then get exercised about.

      1. ian dearing: I paraphrased six different things, based on stuff they said throughout the season. Didn’t feel like going for a formal hunt for references for all of them, I think most people watching F1 nowadays recognize that Toto and Lewis have been frequently making comments like the ones I mentioned. But if you still think I’m making stuff up, I can start to gather these references.

        Clue: the first one is right above.

        1. And all these comments were made in ref to your claim of sandbagging. You really think they spent the season sandbagging and you paraphrased a number of comments they used to cover up their sandbagging?

    3. Both Toto and Lewis are masters of gamesmanship.

      Hamilton’s radio calls had his rivals second guessing his strategy, simply waiting for him to come back to them. I wonder if the same can be said for Toto’s remarks? ;-)

  5. @gechichan I have to disagree with the COTD. it’s all based on assumptions that you can’t prove. How do you know Max was driving better in the first half? Maybe Gasly’s rubbish pace made it look that way? How do you know the car was easier to drive for Albon? Also Albon was indeed marginally better than Gasly in qualifying but in the race he was miles better. Gasly was racing in the midfield while Albon was scything thru it like a Red Bull should whenever he was required to.

    To sum it up: unless you can prove your assumptions somehow I don’t think this is a strong defense for Gasly. And as a simpler explanation is usually the correct one, it’s more likely that Gasly has the same problem Raikkonen (and many many others) has in that he cannot adapt well enough when the car’s not suiting his driving style. There’s no shame in that, some drivers with this problem went on to become world champions. he’s just not a potential all time great that’s all it proves

    1. @montreal95

      I have to disagree with the COTD. it’s all based on assumptions that you can’t prove. (…) To sum it up: unless you can prove your assumptions somehow I don’t think this is a strong defense for Gasly.

      I wasn’t aware this was a court case. If I knew, I wouldn’t have stated my personal opinion but would have prepared a better case for Gasly… poor kid, he’s only chance now is to appeal.

      Joking aside, my original comment (which got selected for COTD) was in reply to an opinion of which “Gasly was disastrously bad”, which I didn’t feel was completely right. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t at the level he was supposed to, but disastrously bad felt too much honestly. Albon is seen as a great 2nd driver while Gasly was seen as really really awful, when their performances wasn’t night and day, felt to me that a lot of subjectiveness got into the mix.

      1. @gechichan Well yeah, when you put it that way, and knowing how this comment came about I sort of agree. The difference wasn’t night and day. But Gasly’s RBR performances were still really awful, he was costing them too much so his demotion was justified. As was Albon’s retention for 2020. Your defense of him(go on put another funny court joke here I don’t mind :) ) was also subjective though(you may have been right, but we can’t know that can we?) as I said above

    2. @montreal95 ”cannot adapt well enough when the car’s not suiting his driving style.”
      – That’s a high possibility and something I’ve come up with as a potential theory as well.

    3. People comment with the same defense for a driver’s failure. “They built the car to suit x driving style, that is why they hd such a hard time adapting to it.” I have to 100 percent disagree with this statement. Hear me out on my ramble. Picture this, WW I and WW II Aces didn’t have planes made specifically for them. You had fighter pilots who did an outstanding job and came back home alive multiple times , and you had pilots that didn’t last long because frankly they weren’t that good to begin with. Let’s say Mercedes is a BF 109, Redbull is a Spitfire or Zero and so forth for the other cars. Max, Lewis, Leclerc, Sebastian, Sir Jackie Stewart, Schumacher are up there because they are great “fighter pilots”. They know the limits of their machines and they know how to dog fight it’s that simple, those that can’t just plain suck.

      1. Mike, suggesting that a car doesn’t fit a driver’s driving style doesn’t have to mean it is because the car was built for someone else. It can simply mean that the car is troublesome to get balanced, and that the car tends towards being understeery or oversteery by the way the design happened to make the car work, be it intentionally or not.

        Your airplane analogy doesn’t work, because warplanes were built en masse for countries’ Air Forces, with no connection to specific pilots. The ultimate ‘spec series’ lol. In car racing teams are building cars with a couple of specific drivers in mind.

        But consider how, for example, MS had his teammates under contract to not compete against him when he was at Ferrari. That is a fact as admitted by Barricello post-Austria 02. So if a driver’s teammate is not to compete against him, why would they not focus the design of the car on MS’s preferred driving style? And it is a fact that some drivers can’t stand oversteer…or under steer, or some prefer a little of one or the other, or some need perfect balance or they’re in a bit of trouble as they don’t want even a bit of oversteer or understeer. Drivers do have preferences. And yes your point is taken that some can adapt better than others. But it certainly does happen, and has, that a team’s star driver gets a car that tends toward certain characteristics in order to increase their odds that said driver will find happiness with the car. If a driver tends to like a little oversteer, they’re not going to try to design a car that is by nature so understeery that they can never dial back into it some oversteer to make the driver happy. Bottom line, no, teams do not always just try to make the most neutral car possible in order to be fair to both drivers.

        In Gasly’s case I don’t believe he was struggling due to a car built for Max, as Max was also struggling in the first portion of the season, as the car was not ideal. But if they were trying to dial in some behaviours in the car that Max prefers, should that be a surprise?

        1. Yes, those planes were built en masse, but every aeroplane has their small quirks, like I stated before the great ones adapt and get the job done. Having attempted to learn how to fly a plane I got to experience that failure, while one of the two planes was more forgiving the second one left me feeling frustrated after every lesson. I remember Hamilton being a bit concerned in 2013 because the braking system was going to change for the hybrid era, but he adapted to it and the rest is history.

          1. Mike not saying you aren’t somewhat correct in saying the great ones adapt, but even the great ones such as FA can’t perform miracles when the car is just too uncompetitive. Also, I don’t believe Leclerc has earned a spot yet on your list, and LH being a bit concerned in 2013 and then adapting is proof of nothing as the team likely had much to do as well with getting him comfortable with the feel of the braking, and LH wasn’t the only one that would have had to adapt to the feel of hybrid braking. It is a team effort to get a driver to where he is able to adapt. Or not.

  6. Next year will be tricky for Mercedes? Yeah, I’m sure the loss of a few pole positions and wins here and there as they cruise to another title will be so demoralising…

    1. You never know, maybe the Ferraris will stop spinning off , crashing into each other when not crashing into barriers, get a strategy right, let the slower one passed, stop trying to cheat the other out of a qually run, or finally get a legal Ferrari car fast? And at a stretch Max can stop cheating; or at least stop admitting it, and even stop crashing because he has had a temper tantrum?
      So yea, it could be trickier? But unlikely

      1. Well said.

        Not Mercedes fault that they expect their rivals to be operationally competent.

      2. Maybe my memory is foggy but I feel the Max comment is not entirely fair. I’m not a fan of his driving but I like that it gets the best out of the other drivers like LeClerc when on track. I look forward to more battles.

        The Ferrari comment is on the nose. Sums up their season(s) quite well.

  7. Must be terrifying to always start the year with the worst car on the grid…

    1. yep, and for six years on a row!

  8. The front row did a Ferrari, bahrain suits the toyotas even less than shanghai.

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