Restart, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Mercedes “can’t keep losing points like this” says Wolff after worst two races since 2012

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says the team cannot afford to continue squandering points-scoring opportunities following its poor results in Azerbaijan and Monaco.

The team have taken just seven points from the last two races. This is their worst performance in back-to-back events since the end of the 2012 season.

Wolff fears for the team’s championship chances if they do not turn their form around. “I think there is lots of things that are not running smoothly as they have in the past few years,” he told media after yesterday’s race, in which both cars finished outside of the top 10.

“Operationally it’s not our ‘A-game’. We haven’t found the really sweet spot of the car through qualifying and race: having a qualifying car and a quick race car.

“There’s just so much that we need to improve that I just want to get on it right now after this call, in order to make sure that we are actually able to compete for this championship. Because we can’t continue losing points like we’ve done in Monaco and here. It’s just not acceptable for all of us.”

Mercedes has lost cars from front-running positions in each of the last two races. Valtteri Bottas held second place early in the Monaco Grand Prix until a botched pit stop forced him to retire.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Poll: Rate the Race – 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton spent much of yesterday’s race in third position before inheriting second place when Max Verstappen retired. He was poised to pass Sergio Perez for the lead at the restart when he went off after accidentally changing his brake settings, and finished outside of the points positions.

Wolff, who took over in charge of Mercedes F1 operations in 2014, described the past races as the “toughest” times he has gone through in the role.

“Not having performance in Monaco, then Valtteri who would have made it solid onto the podium needing a pitstop of 36 hours is not really a great achievement based on the standards that we are setting ourselves,” he said.

In Baku the W12 was “in almost all sessions nowhere”, he added. “It’s just not acceptable that we are not getting the car into a performing position after the start or out of the pit stops. We are losing seconds over a seconds to get the car in a happy window. It functions, it just takes too long.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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64 comments on “Mercedes “can’t keep losing points like this” says Wolff after worst two races since 2012”

  1. They are very lucky to walk away with only a 7 point WDC difference and even the 26 WCC points difference, we will have to see if that’s a blessing for the coming races or whether Red Bull can continue their good run on the more normal tracks.

    Verstappen’s current form should frighten them, as well as Perez’s continued improvements.

    Meanwhile, Sky will have to struggle to find a new talking point that isn’t “Can Verstappen handle the pressure against the experienced and calm old hand” that they’ve been on all season up until now.

    1. 4 point WDC difference*

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      7th June 2021, 13:43

      I’d say it’s Perez’s and Bottas’ form that will frighten them the most. Perez is improving as he gets more used to the car and team and unless Bottas can match him, Red Bull are going to win the Constructors even if Lewis ends up walking away with the Drivers.

      1. @aiii @petebaldwin
        I don’t think there’s much difference in Verstappen’s form, consistently good, but actually not his absolute best. Hamilton has made two mistakes taking him off track, the first he was lucky to recover from, the second, yesterday, kind of freakish if ultimately down to his own error. Bottas drove well in Monaco and had massive bad luck (again). But where Bottas has been consistently weak this season, as last really, is in the races and keeping his tyres in the ideal window. He can quickly be sent spiralling down. That contrasts with Perez who seems to be attaining a consistency, combined with some degree of one-lap speed, that allows him to progress from a reasonable position at the start. I think Mercedes’ tree has been shaken with the competition and some of the areas where they could afford to be weaker, like pit stops, or simply overlooked are now being exposed. Hamilton being ambitious at critical moments mid-end race is also having negative outcomes, maybe luck, maybe just an inevitable outcome of playing the odds. Even so, I expect Mercedes to be much closer and even slightly ahead over the next series of tracks.

      2. F1oSaurus (@)
        7th June 2021, 16:25

        @petebaldwin It still remains to be seen if Perez actually improved. Specifically tracks like Baku and Canada are the few tracks where he puts in a decent performance.

        1. But still an improvement.

        2. It’s pretty obvious he’s improved. Just because Baku is a favourite doesn’t mean he would go well if he wasn’t comfortable in the car. Just look at his lap 1 overtakes, he was way more confident in knowing he could send it and get on the brakes later than Gasly for example. Also the way he soaked the pressure up from Hamilton for most of the race was impressive.

          His main weakness is still extracting that 1 lap pace from the car consistently. But this result will fill him full of confidence.

    3. Indeed, they’re throwing away a significant amount of points, hamilton especially hasn’t been flawless like he used to be.

    4. merc could have won both races. Merc have not dominated the way they used to ever since testing these tyres last year. The softest compounds compound their problems. Some teams and drivers seem to have benefited from these tyres, overall the grid is almost identical to last year. I expect Pirelli is going to alocate harder compounds as the season progresses, as usual and that merc should perform better on most tracks.

      1. @peartree Indeed that’s what will probably happen following the tyre blowouts, but such a shame when the softer range evened out the field with even Aston Martin getting up there.

  2. I’d say that Bottas should be finished at Merc now. It’s embarrassing that he constantly cannot overtake cars that are 1 second a lap slower than him, yet his teammate can fly past slower cars without trying.

    But of course Toto is his manager, so he will keep his job. Stroll gets criticized for it so surely a top team driver should as well.

    1. And who manages Russell?

  3. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    7th June 2021, 13:33

    I think they’re being really overdramatic. They’ve just been quite unfortunate over the past two races which compared to how fortunate they’ve been over the past five to six years I’d say isn’t a huge issue. Ultimately as this article points out, they have lost a car from a front running position in both races – it’s unlucky, but they are still in front running positions on merit. They’ve dropped a load of points but arguably the damage isn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been – again with the good fortune – and they’re still very much the favourite. They’ll be absolutely fine and looking ahead it’s Red Bull that should be afraid given most of Mercedes’ weakest tracks have already been and gone.

    1. @rocketpanda true, had Hamilton not brushed the wrong button at the restart, we’d be talking about a brilliant Mercedes/Hamilton win and recovery from a terrible Friday/Saturday practice.

      1. @rocketpanda @david-br Agreed. I’m going to take it one race at a time, just as Max is, and am going to assume Mercedes is the benchmark, for there is a ton of racing yet to do. This is so unlike them I doubt RBR are at all banking on anything but Mercedes to come back swinging.

        1. @robbie, I think it’s safe to say now that RBR should at least be equal favourites for the win this year. They’ve actually managed to bring a highly competitive car right from the start of this season instead of taking 1/2 the season to come to grips with it.

          In my view this season is theirs to lose for the first time in a long time. What is perhaps a little concerning is that Max in particular has not quite nailed q3 on quite a few occasions and that’s not really something they can afford against a team like Mercedes.

          That being said, Mercedes certainly seem to have their problems this year so I suspect you’re going to have a happy season :)

          1. @dbradock I do get where you’re coming from of course wrt having a competitive car right out of the box, and Mercedes seeming to have their problems, however, I personally am not ready to tag Max/RBR with the “theirs to lose” concept quite yet. I’m just not ready to accept that Mercedes has done anything but just experienced a few anomalies, and that they won’t find their way and start heading most remaining races, with RBR with just not quite that pace they need at too many tracks. Mercedes has just been too strong a dynasty for too long, such that after only this many races I just need to see more to believe that RBR is some kind of new benchmark. Mercedes has been utterly dominant, while RBR are (only) sometimes a bit faster and sometimes a bit slower, depending on the track. That does not make for a ‘dynasty beater’ quite yet for me. Of course I am hopefully and yes I am having a ‘happy season’ so far, but in a way I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop and don’t want to get my hopes too high quite yet.

          2. From what I saw I would say red bull has quite some edge on qualifying so far these first races, and exactly with the baku race I’d say they have some very slight race pace edge on average, the problem is: the pattern is clear, mercedes has a better race pace on normal tracks and red bull on street tracks, so let’s see what happens after france.

    2. I agree, they have a tendency to do this going back years, always over-hyping even the slightest bit of push back from the competition. They still arguably have the best package and will be back to business as usual before long. I for one am rooting for RedBull as it just makes it so much more compelling if there’s a real tussle at the front particularly as Ferrari always seemed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every time they got close.

      1. arguably have the best package

        Based on what sir? The last 7 years?

  4. Bottas needs to be sacked today. He finished 12th in a 12 car race with top 5 equipment. 3 cars retired. Hamilton took himself out with mistake. Latifi had penalty. The Haas and Williams cars can’t compete. Actually that adds up to 9 cars that were “out” of race leaving 11 cars racing and Bottas finished 12th.

    1. Lewis just got lucky (and Bottas unlucky) with how the Q3 session turned out that he was able to start in 2nd, with a cleaner session he could well have ended up further back. And he still dropped back behind BOTH Red Bull cars. At least one could say that Bottas did not lose positions in Baku, like Hamilton did. I think the difference in rear wings (pretty sure Hamilton had the one that is better for overtaking) also did not help Bottas in fighting through the field.

      And let’s please not forget that Bottas was running second in Monaco (after beating the record pole position holder in qualifying in the same car) and would have most likely finished there if his car had not gotten stuck in the pitbox for “36 hours” @jimfromus. And the car was hard to get right for both drivers, Hamilton was doing much worse than Bottas in that race.

      1. F1oSaurus (@)
        7th June 2021, 16:27

        @bascb True, Hamilton was lucky that he ended up Q3 in front of the two fastest cars. Inevitably they ended up in front of him during the race. Not helped by a slowed pitstop.

  5. Some brutal comments coming Bottas’ way. I wonder if thats really fair on him. After all he was used as a tool in qualifying so that Lewis could get the slipstream. Additionally, he was given a different wing and thus the whole fairytale story that Hamilton was telling the press post-qualifying that the car setup finally “clicked” doesn’t apply to Bottas’s car. So I’m not sure Bottas actually got a fair chance to perform to his potiential. Basically the same as Hamilton in Monaco. I think this is what Wolff is pointing at; the struggle to setup the car and give both drivers a fighting chance.

    And speaking of Monaco, Bottas did an excellent job there. He’s not that bad a driver.
    Admittedly he did underperform quite terribly at Imola. But also then, Mercedes wasn’t able to get temperature in the tyres with one of their cars.

    1. He seems to have problems moving through traffic. In a everal races we’ve seen him get bogged down and unable to overtake anyone. Lewis never has that problem with the same car. Despite all the retirements ahead of him Bottas went backwards in Baku. You just can’t be doing that in a top team and expect to beat Red Bull.

      1. Ahm, Dane, apart from the Ferrari of Leclerc, how many cars did Hamilton actually pass here and in Monaco?

        Yes, Hamilton is a better driver than Bottas (Duh), but I rather think that the issue with running in the field is largely to do with the car having been designed to run well in clear air. We’ve seen it quite a few times in the last 4 years (since the Mercedes are not miles ahead of anyone else) that in traffic they often have issues, unless they have a tyre advantage.

        1. Lewis started 2nd, so there wasn’t anyone to pass besides Leclerc before he got stuck behind Perez. He briefly got by Perez at the restart before he went off at turn one. In Monaco the only one who made a pass was Mick on Mazepin because…. it’s Monaco? There’s plenty of instances in seasons past though where Lewis is out of position at the back and fighters through the field. I struggle to recall a time where Bottas did the same.

          1. **fights through the field.

            Can we get an edit option?

    2. I agree with you there @me4me. Mercedes is really struggling to get the car in a working window. In Monaco Bottas made it work, unlike Hamilton. But that pitstop put paid to his efforts.

      Hamilton lost positions in the race both in Monaco and here – dropping behind both Red Bulls who started behind him (very far behind for Perez) before Max’ race ended in the wall. Those positions were down to strategy, sure, but that points to the level of what Mercedes are struggling with.

    3. @me4me I think the drivers get to choose which wing to run. All those different choices add up, combined with their driving styles, to produce very different results sometimes. Like you said, Bottas got those elements working in Monaco, unlike HAM, but the reverse applied at Baku. I agree VB was compromised somewhat in Q3 but I doubt he’d have been troubling the front row even if he’d picked up a tow on a final run.

    4. watching the warm-up lap it is remarkable to notice how stiff the mercs and bottas’ car was relative to the red bulls. merc missing something on the tyres is such a rarity. They clearly went the wrong way on Bottas’ car, judging by Monaco Bottas can’t be that bad.

  6. lets just hope they find their mojo and are back on it asap

  7. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    7th June 2021, 16:34

    It’s not as bad as it seems. They barely scored any points in the last 2 races and are still within touching distance of RB. However, Mercedes cannot afford any more bad weekends. Both RB and Merc will have their favorable tracks. This season is all about who can minimize the damage at tracks which don’t suit their car. Bottas’ confidence would have taken a hit after the recent turn of events. Really hope he can find his mojo back over the next few rounds.

  8. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    7th June 2021, 16:41

    6 points in 2 races is pretty bad… a 3rd race with results like these and it’s a trend.

    1. They will be back fighting at the front but Hamilton might be in for a shock if he thinks he can just cruise to an 8th title, like his previous 6 titles. The Bulls are taking steps forward and are ahead in the championship and they still haven’t fully maximised their results *yet*. So I expect this battle to rage on all year. It’s great.

      1. Hopefully red bull can keep it up, yes, and I definitely am one who says hamilton needs some serious challenge before being considered as good as some say, however it can’t be said he cruised to the title like his previous 6, that would mean every single mercedes title, and in 2016 rosberg was pretty good, hamilton still did better and only barely lost despite horrible luck, but I don’t think rosberg was any worse than vettel, 2017 and 2018 also was quite competitive, with ferrari dropping off performance and reliability wise in the 2nd half of 2017 and vettel doing the same in 2018.

        1. Ah, ops, obviously hamilton didn’t win 2016, in any case I remember some good competition with rosberg in 2014.

  9. In Baku the W12 was “in almost all sessions nowhere”

    Apart from Qualifying, where the car was on the front row, and the Race, which Hamilton led for a portion, before running a close third for much of the race.

    1. A you do not know Toto..
      If it’s bad it’s Bottas. If it’s good it’s Lewis. If the team fuc#€ up its never Toto..
      There is reality and there is Toto.

      1. Ahah, true, in any case even as an anti-mercedes I have to admit they were slower than I thought here: it felt like the 3rd best car in quali with red bull 2nd and 2nd best car in the race, I think hamilton performed very well all weekend until the mistake at 2 laps to go and that he could’ve easily qualified 4th in the circumstances (behind ferraris + vers).

        1. And the fact he didn’t manage to pass perez tells me red bull had a little margin ofc.

  10. isthatglock21
    7th June 2021, 16:50

    Merc have a lot to learn about why they struggled so badly that in the end they had to roll the dice & gamble whilst exhausting all options for the perfect setup, that Lewis managed to work around. I was in the ‘write it off’ camp in Monaco as it can be a one off, but no doubt there are fundamental issues that will haunt them at other places, even if just in some sections. Hamilton does well in a lot fo places, but can have odd days where he is qual to Bottas. In that case you will have 2 driver frankly under performing with neither dragging the most out of it. Plenty of point will go to waste. Better save some capacity for this fight instead of going all into 2022 plans

    1. there are fundamental issues that will haunt them

      Yep, they are called stress.

      1. You and F1osauraus are two sides of an extremely annoying F1 driver / team tribalism coin.

        1. He’s an enemy, while the other one is the most unpopular person ever.

          1. enemy

            you know this is a forum i hope?
            People have opinions and some very delusional (f1trollosaurus) but still.
            And yes, its pure stress that is hurting Mercedes at the moment . And toto is not good in stressful situations, its a good manager when things go his way.

            Btw, not sure witch tribal i am in… Verstappen is guess looking at some comments.
            But no, Lewis is the GOAT at the moment but still human ( something his fans overlook)
            Verstappen is the challenger and very consistent with less mistakes.
            But i really enjoyed the podium .

          2. You know there’s a forum section…

          3. YOu KNOW ThiS IS a forUm I hOpE?

            Still don’t side with you! Haha!

  11. Ofcourse Toto is stressed out. He has never faced such a situation since taking over in 2014.. And he knows that RBR are not Ferrari, RBR won’t throw away their chances.

    1. Christian Horner has that experience how to rise to the top and fall from there (and maybe to come back again). Toto came to Mercedes in 2013 when they were only focusing to upcoming 2014 season. Yes Ferrari has troubled Mercedes but they still didn’t challenge Mercedes to win any championships.

      This is a new sitution to Toto and even though he is experienced this season could give Toto somechallenges he still has not faced.

      1. Good remarks of both of you.
        Learning to lose and overcome setbacks is also an important skill indeed.
        Can To handle that?

  12. However I believe they will have a better car than red bull on balance now since no more street tracks yet, I have yet to see red bull beat mercedes on pace on a normal track.

  13. Other teams should be suicidal by now, after the last 7 years.
    Can you imagine how little it would take for Mercedes to pack it’s bags, if they stop being competitive next year.

  14. Dropping Bottas this year was a no brainer because he was underperforming badly against Hamilton and nearly lost 2nd place to Verstappen in the WDC. The thing is Wolff didn’t want any headache coming from his drivers thinking that Mercedes will retain their performance advantage against RBR with the stable regulations.

    The decision not to sign a better driver than Bottas has backfired against Mercedes despite there were plenty of drivers with different profiles available : Russel, Ricciardo, Sainz, Vettel, Perez, Ocon and to a lesser extent Alonso (vetoed by Hamilton and Wolff himself but he was available). RBR caught them twice this year and closed the gap with a faster car and a more capable driver second driver.

    I don’t think the situation is dramatic, this year is about Mercedes and RBR being equally fast depending on track layouts. Hamilton made the difference in 2017 and 2018 by winning in tracks where Ferrari was faster. This year will be about who will be scoring points when he is not the favourite.

    1. I think the situation is dramatic. Hamilton can still take the championship but Mercedes doesn’t have a chance in the constructors. Besides 2 strong Red Bull drivers, the midfield drivers are too strong for Bottas to consistently finish in the top 5.

    2. Slight bizarre comments when it was Bottas who was on the front row (probably pole without the red flag), and on his way to 2nd place in the last race, while it was Hamilton who was way behind.

      1. @balue
        Hamilton has shown pace except for Monaco and was on his way to win in Baku if he didn’t make that silly mistake. Bottas as usual was nowhere near Hamilton’s pace. He was fighting Russel’s Williams before they crashed in Imola when Mercedes was equally fast if not faster than RBR in race trim. In Portugal he finished 3rd behind Verstappen after starting from pole despite having the faster car. In Spain he was fighting Leclerc for 3rd and in Baku he embarrassing even by his own standard.

        I don’t know what’s bizarre here, Hamilton who has won 3 races, in one of them (Bahrain) RBR was clearly the faster car, finished 2nd in one race and had two off races or Bottas who has been nowhere near Hamilton except for Monaco. Mercedes are trailing RBR in the WCC by 26 points and the reason is that Bottas has scored less than half of Hamilton’s points.

        1. @tifoso1989 You overlook Valtteri was in line for a good points haul before he did his pit stop at Monaco, where the pit crew did a substandard job of changing the tyres. I think it would have been nice if Toto apologised publicly for ruining Valtteri’s race, but I’m not expecting anything now.
          Also, at Baku Valtteri finished ahead of Lewis.

          1. @drycrust
            Fair point, I didn’t overlook Bottas’s race in Monaco. I said Hamilton has shown pace except for Monaco. Monaco was the exception when Hamilton was outpaced by Bottas who later got halted by a disastrous pit stop. Toto is trying to put the blame on Bottas to overlook the fact that he is the first responsible of wasting that seat when there was a bunch of more capable drivers available.

        2. Hamilton was NOT on his way to win in baku, but 3rd place, not to say he didn’t drive well until that point, but verstappen’s problem is NOT hamilton’s merit, the place gained on perez was also consequence of that.

  15. Pressure is a strange force, they are now under it.

    With enough force everything starts cracking.

    Fun for us not so fun for them.

    But also great for them, every event like this will make their wins more memorable.

    1. Yes, not sure if you noticed how happy hamilton was of 2nd place on the grid, you never used to see stuff like that any more, always used to easy poles.

  16. The advantage Mercedes has on regular tracks will make this all go away. Typically Toto trying to spice things up again. It will just result in a smaller margin by which they claim both titles again. Having Monaco and Baku follow eachother overall picture that is clearly again here this year. But at least the fans get some excitement and were very very very lucky Lewis didnt score 26 point in Baku, which would effectively have ended the season already.

    1. It’s not luck, verstappen had a problem, that’s the bad luck in the first place.

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