Wolff denies Lowe’s claim over Mercedes ‘sandbagging’ their engines in 2014

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Mercedes did not deliberately reduce the performance of their power units in 2014 due to concerns F1’s rules might be changed, CEO Toto Wolff has insisted, despite recent claims made by a former senior member of staff.

Paddy Lowe, who was Mercedes’ executive technical director at the time, said this week the team was concerned that if rivals saw the true scale of their performance advantage the FIA might be pressured into introducing new rules to slow them down.

According to Lowe, Wolff repeatedly argued for the teams to run its engines in less powerful modes during qualifying, even in the decisive Q3 stage.

“In qualifying, we would never turn the engine up for Q1 and Q2,” he said. “It was run in a sort of idle mode.”

“The debate would then be how much to turn the engine up for Q3. I’d be getting it in the ear from Toto: ‘That’s too much, that’s too much’. And I’m thinking, ‘but if we don’t get pole, we’ll look like a right bunch of mugs’.”

Lowe (left) with Wolff (right) and the team’s drivers in 2014
Wolff, however, disputed Lowe’s recollection.

“I think Paddy must have been in a different place than I was,” he said. “There is no such situation that you turn back an engine just to have regulations tweaked in your direction.”

F1 introduced the current V6 hybrid turbo engine formula in 2014. Lowe said it was unlikely those rules would have been changed at short notice in response to Mercedes’ advantage.

“We were very competitive in 2014 and I think everybody could see that it was the start of a regulatory environment that wouldn’t have been changed anyway,” he said.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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48 comments on “Wolff denies Lowe’s claim over Mercedes ‘sandbagging’ their engines in 2014”

  1. Whom do I believe?

    The man whose only reason to lie would be to make himself and his efforts look better even though they already look legendary or the man who has taken every possible opportunity to smugly lie to the world media’s faces about the advantage of his team over the last eight years?

    Decisions, decisions…

    1. Eh, didn’t we have a series of articles at the start of the year/end of last year reminiscing the 2014 year, and how they tended to not run the engine too hard (sure, cooling yeah, but also no need to stress it bc. they were ahead anyway … but Paddy did put it a bit stronger indeed).

    2. Decisions indeed 😂

      Reply moderated
    3. make himself and his efforts look better even though they already look legendary

      Yeahhh… Those FW41 and FW42 sure we’re legendary alright…

      Paddy has more than enough reason to try and save any sort of face.

      Amazes me that people are so caught up on the idea of Toto lying as if 90% of the paddock wouldn’t say whatever they could to get an any sort of leg up.

      1. Yes, because bragging about engine power is going to make up for chassis failures, @skipgamer. Point is, if Toto said the sky is blue and I would look up and see it’s blue, I’d book an emergency appointment with a ophthalmologist.

    4. Snot nosed little imp who was seen for what he was at Williams or one of the most successful entrepeneurs in the history of the sport? Either way, Paddy looks even worse than he did after getting sacked from Williams.

  2. I don’t believe Toto at all. I think he’s one of the least trustworthy people in the paddock, tbh.

    1. Q. How can you tell that Toto is lying?

      A. His mouth is open.

      Q. How can you tell that Toto is about to lie?

      A. His mouth is closed.

      1. Man u people are going off on Toto 😅.
        I’ve only begun to follow f1 last season and at first i thought that he was a serious guy.
        But now im convinced that u guys are right.

        Reply moderated
        1. He is a serious guy, he’s just a businessman. He makes non-committal statements that give neither truth nor lie. They try to give information while confirming or denying nothing or very little real substance. It’s about media image obviously. He basically turns a question on its head an breaks it down into the possibilities, which is akin to rereading the question. That’s why all these media guys, or at least the more aggressive ones, pose questions with answers already baked in. They are harder to be non-committal about.

          Reply moderated
    2. Compared to Toto, Ron/Helmut/Ross/Christian/Flavio/Otmar are beacons of integrity.

      1. Absolutely agree, the liar strikes again!

        1. He could consider a career as a scammer post f1, scammers need to lie a lot.

  3. Honest Paddy: We turned the engine down.

    Perpetual lying Toto the snake: No, we didn’t.

    Hmmmmm.

    1. Haha 😅

      Reply moderated
  4. hahaha brilliant. I knew he’d be unhappy about this. :D

    1. 😂 He’s not had a good week. First Russell blabs about everyone with a Merc engine having to give way to the works team and now this.

  5. Lol two opposing views. Makes one wonder why Lowe would say what he has, like he was theoretically in a different place. Can’t think of what would be in it for Lowe to make this up. I lean more towards TW not wanting to admit this was the case, given indeed how dominant they were. It is easier for me to believe Lowe over TW on this as the proof seems to be in the pudding. There was always their ability to find something extra for Q3.

    As well I think TW is taking a bit of license when he suggests no such situation where cranking down their pu would result in rules being tweaked to their favour. That is not what Lowe was saying. He was saying they cranked down their pu so as not to stand out like a sore thumb too much, and have the rules tweaked to their disfavour. Two different things. And while I do take TW’s point that they were not about to change the regs so soon after a major regs change anyway, there indeed might have been some tweaking. Perhaps to the token thing for example. Rules have been tweaked rapidly in the past, e.g. DAS, or double diffusers, or flexy wing tests, or etc etc.

    1. Can’t think of what would be in it for Lowe to make this up.

      To sacrifice his reputation after failing to even deliver a built car in time for testing at Williams. It’s part of his claim that the Williams was only so flattered early in the hybrid era because of the engine and once that was wound back the fundamental flaws of the team was exposed.

      He of course supposedly had nothing to do with those flaws.

      1. Salvage, not sacrifice.

        1. Sorry can’t relate your Williams scenario to his Mercedes revelation. The Mercs were dominant anyway, even if they were barely stressing the pu, so he looks good from those initial days of the hybrid era anyway…even moreso if they weren’t even needing to use all they had. Williams have had many issues contributing to Lowes ‘failure’ there, and I think everyone gets that.

          1. This is the problem with quote taken out of context. Go listen to the podcast. It’s all part of the same story telling.

      2. To sacrifice his reputation after failing to even deliver a built car in time for testing at Williams. It’s part of his claim that the Williams was only so flattered early in the hybrid era because of the engine and once that was wound back the fundamental flaws of the team was exposed.

        He of course supposedly had nothing to do with those flaws.

        Nail on the head.

      3. @skipgamer I’m fairly sure he didn’t have anything to do with the PU; so doesn’t need to save face on that front.

  6. I don’t see why Mercedes, or any team should be required to expose the full extent of any advantage they hold, should they hold one. That would actually be a bit silly and I wouldn’t blame them at all for not doing so.

    I’m also not sure about Paddy’s claims either. He says Williams were flattered by Mercedes engine in the early hybrid era to explain their lack of competitiveness once he arrived. But then why weren’t McLaren similarly flattered?

    At the time McLaren were in the media saying they weren’t getting the full range of engine modes, so are we to believe Mercedes favoured Williams over McLaren? I really doubt they would have a reason to do that.

    It’s all very typical Formula 1 nonsense. After all, there’s no award for least deceptive team is there?

    1. Sorry, Williams is so low these days that not many really care about them that much. You could be right, but common sense says Lowe must be the one telling the truth. Plus, McLaren announcing in 2013 that they will race Honda engines starting 2015 is reason enough for Mercedes not to tell them all the engine secrets?! Very much…

    2. Anthony Vertue
      30th April 2021, 17:59

      Because Mac ditched Merc for Honda..

  7. I don’t trust Toto. I don’t trust Horner. I don’t trust any of the team principals to be honest, apart from Steiner! They are all very skilled politicians. I’m no Paddy Lowe fan either, but it’s clear he’s telling the truth, he has nothing to gain from not doing so.

    1. Well actually, I’m doing Andreas Seidl a disservice here. One of the most likeable chaps in the paddock… not that I know him of course but I’ve watched enough McLaren unboxed!!

    2. Actually Paddy does have something to gain!
      He glorifies his own work by saying Merc was even further ahead & also creates an alibi for his shabby Williams performance (the engine flattered the car).

      But the proof is in the pudding. And for me, that is 2014 Bahrain GP where Lewis and Nico pulled out 1-1.5 seconds a lap over their pursuers while battling each other. That advantage in those last 10-15 laps was slightly more than they showed in qualifying. Hence, every reason to believe Paddy when he says that even qualifying in 2014 wasn’t full beans.

      1. Yep, exactly. Same as last year – the only time we saw the true pace of the Mercedes in clear air was at Monza, when Hamilton had to make up ground after his penalty and was suddenly 1.5 seconds a lap faster than everyone else.

        1. Although in Merc’s defence, at Monza last year after the penalty, Max was no longer in the race and Bottas was slow. Hence, the gap to the rest of the field looked exaggerated.

  8. So, according to Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe lied about Mercedes sandbagging.

    Ok, got it.

    Reply moderated
    1. According to Toto Paddy lied about the reasons for sandbagging. Or are we to believe Paddy didnt think it would be a good idea to turn the clearly superior engine down when you didn’t need it at full beans? Or for reliability? Maybe he didnt think people noticed when Ham and Rosberg spoke about having extra modes?

  9. I’m more likely to believe Toto on this one. He didn’t say that they didn’t turn the engine down – they’ve repeatedly said they would. But there are far more likely reasons that “they might change the regs to hinder us” – cooling and reliability being the primary ones.

    And yes so many people are quick to leap to the “Toto is lying” conclusion. Weird…

    1. Well, how is the saying? You reap what you saw? If you constantly lie and suddenly tell the truth, people will assume you’re lying, if you want people to believe you, you should be honest all the time.

  10. “There is no such situation that you turn back an engine just to have regulations tweaked in your direction.”

    Based on his wording, I take that to mean “there were also other reasons we did it”. Unless he said so more directly outside what is quoted here, he isn’t denying what Paddy Lowe claimed.

    Therefore technically he isn’t lying, but he’s being very obtuse about it on purpose.

  11. Toto should say “Paddy Lowe!” the same way Joe Biden says “Mike Pompeo!”.

    Reply moderated
    1. in toto’s world not telling the truth is not the same as lying.

  12. I’m inclined to believe the guy I like the most, and not the guy I’ve been rubbishing every other week.

  13. Anyone remembering Bahrain 2014? They were dominant anyway but after the late safety car (when both drivers used the “forbidden” engine modes on their own) they were absolutely blowing the opposition away by 1,5 to 2 seconds per lap.
    So I think it’s a fair assumption they had a little bit in reserve when needed… At least at the start of the season when Red Bull was struggling

  14. Erm. Yeah I believe Paddy.

    Reply moderated
  15. “Believe” and “Toto Wolff” do not belong in the same sentence

  16. There is no way Toto will admit it not because it is wrong to hide performance advantage but it will look like Merc was doing something wrong. Remember that they were supplying 3 other teams back then and none of them seemed to get access to the extra power. When they did give someone permission to use extra mode (in 2015, basically to help Merc finishing ahead), it was exactly like that… permission. Basically Merc can control how much power they will give to the customer. This is probably in violation of the spirit of the rule about supplying engine which the intention was for manufacturer to give the same engine and software. Of course back then it wasn’t written in black and white about whether the customer can use all the software/engine capabilities, thus Merc technically did not breach anything, but still it will make them look bad if they officially admit it.

    1. Huh, @keithcollantine I think I fatfingered reported this comment. Didn’t intend to. maybe a -‘are you sure’ would be a good thing there?

  17. I must have woken up to a wrong planet. Its all angels here who never lie and they are complaining about a man called Toto who lies. There’s a word for it “Hypocrite”

    Reply moderated
  18. They are still doing it, and other things to influence the rules that is why Wolff had to deny this stance.

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