Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2021

Mercedes have left too many points on the table, admits Wolff

2021 Russian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits the team has missed clear points-scoring opportunities in recent races, despite its improved position in both championships.

Lewis Hamilton re-took the lead of the drivers championship at the Russian Grand Prix and now leads Max Verstappen by two points. Mercedes has a 33-point lead over Red Bull in the constructors championship.

However Mercedes has only won one of the last five races, and was expected to score more highly at Sochi and Monza, which have been among its strongest venues in previous seasons.

“There is a few loose ends and it’s not only this weekend, but also the last the last weekend,” admitted Wolff after Sunday’s race. “In a way, we are not maximising on our point-scoring.”

Having set the pace in practice and the first stages of qualifying in Sochi, the Mercedes pair only qualified fourth and seventh. Hamilton hit the pit wall at a crucial moment during Q3, losing time and delaying team mate Valtteri Bottas. As a result Mercedes took the opportunity to replace Bottas’ power unit before the race, meaning he started 16th, from where he struggled to make progress.

“I think quali was always decisive,” Wolff reflected. “Valtteri going back, we knew it was difficult.

“We ended up with the first and fifth, that is very good, no doubt about that and it’s Lewis’ 100th victory. But Max recovered pretty spectacular form and that is not good for the championship.

“So in a nutshell, we just need to continue to be really aggressive in how we approach the season. Not be defensive, but just move forward in order to score these big points, because neither us nor the others are really good at maximising the points at the moment.”

The team was on course to finish second and 14th until a rain shower hit in the final laps. Without that Wolff is uncertain whether Hamilton would have been able to pass Lando Norris to win.

“It’s difficult to say because Lewis was stuck behind Ricciardo at the beginning of the race, although we had DRS. So I think it would have been difficult to pass.

“They had a fast car today and it was well managed from his side. I think they had a bit of a fuel worry, it seemed, and then when he picked up the pace, he was very quick.”

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44 comments on “Mercedes have left too many points on the table, admits Wolff”

  1. How is finishing 1 starting from 4 and finishing 5 starting from 17, not maximizing point scoring!

    1. I think he is talking over the whole season untill now but everyone expected a easy 1-2 for Mercedes so if you look at that that is also losing points.

    2. While a 1-5 in Sochi was a recovery compared to 2-14, it is still worse than a 1-2 which the team was capable of doing based on form shown in FP1, FP2, Q1, Q2.

      If you consider the last 2 races, Sochi and Monza should have been 1-2s in qualifying and races with potential to win at least 91 points (may be 93, if they also got fastest lap, but that was unlikely). But Merc ended with 53 points only.

  2. They win and they lose together as a team. It makes sense that after so many years of dominance both Lewis (in his wheel to wheel battles) and the total team are rusty. They are frankly just not used to having to battle or fight. Always leading from the front with two cars can never make you sharper for the situation where you actually have to battle. I expect them to become stronger every race as they return to what this sport is about.

    1. Merely 3 years, what a huge contrast to 2018 when everyone praising their ability to make a comeback (gripping issue/setup), best pit-stop strategy, best wingman strategy and execution, best driver (Lewis’s Germany 2018), best management (led by Toto) etc…

    2. Yeah, they lose together like when Hamilton in Monaco Said “the team has lessons to learn, not me”

  3. But Max recovered pretty spectacular form and that is not good for the championship.

    He probably meant to say, not good for our championship.
    In fact it is great for the championship. And good to see the Mercedes inflicted damage on the redbulls is compensated by the mistakes Mercedes makes under pressure.
    2021 still is the greatest season in years.

  4. I think that the fact that both Mercedes and RBR have made mistakes this year has only added to the intense competition we’re seeing this year.

    Couple that with the fact that other teams have been joining the party at the front, and it promises to be one of the best seasons we’ve had for ages.

    I expect that the WDC in particular may well come down to whichever team makes the fewest mistakes from now until season end. The pressure is on, not only for the drivers but every single team member.

    Let’s make the most of it. My guess is that 2022 might not be anywhere near as interesting and we’ll return to status quo for a couple of seasons at least before team performances with the new design regs converge.

    1. @dbradock When I saw your line “it promises to be one of the best seasons we’ve had for ages,” I just knew there was going to be something to follow about next year:) I know one can’t rewind the clock and selectively pretend certain things didn’t happen, but of course from a driver/performance/car standpoint this Championship shouldn’t be as close as it is. Other circumstances have made it this close, but sure there is some convergence going on too. I’ll not applaud this current formula when it has taken 8 seasons to get here.

      I’ll be amazed if next year isn’t near as interesting just by virtue of it being so new, for one thing. The PUs are converged. The regs for car design are more restrictive. And of course the biggy is that the cars will no longer be clean air dependent. Of course you could be right because I do believe there is more room for design innovation than many fans seem to think is the case, and your concern supports that. But overall as you know I think that no matter what happens next year they needed to take these measures and these measures are a far better jumping off point than we have had for a long time. I really doubt we are in for another 7 seasons of domination of one team/driver. I do think we are in for some incredible driver vs driver action throughout the grid.

      1. @robbie I know you believe that next year we’ll see close racing. I’m not sure it’s because you work for Liberty and have to say that or whether you truly believe that.

        It should never have taken 8years to get where we are now – I definitely agree, but it wasn’t because of dirty air. It was because teams simply didn’t do a good enough job and one PU manufacturer in particular just didn’t care.

        However, as you say, the PU’s have converged and we’ll have these pretty much spec cars that will be less clean air dependent next year, or at least that is the plan. And you’re right, we “should” see lots of closer racing.

        I understand all that, I’m just not a certain as you that the “starting point” will prove to be as good as you expect. I still expect one or two teams to start from a position of complete domination and it to take several years for the others to catch up. It won’t take as long as this last round, but I still expect there to be quite a gap between the front teams(s) and the others for a couple of years.

        1. @dbradock Of course I truly believe we will see closer racing. I’m going by the extensive research Brawn and his team did in the wind tunnel along with input from the teams. Any small change to the cars to reduce their dependence on clean air can only help, and they have done way more than that. And sure it will need tweaking as every season in F1’s history has.

          I do think the have teams will still be so for a time, but look forward to convergence, and still say that I will be surprised if one or two teams are still as dominant over the rest for as long, and sure, if it takes the few years you speak of so be it. It’s worth it.

          To me, if this chapter of cars can converge, then the next set of cars will do so much more quickly. All teams will be much more prepared for the complex marriage of chassis to pu, all pus being vastly better than 8 years ago. With the pus frozen and quite near each other, I don’t see any team that may start out more strongly by chassis design and build, hanging on to their secret for an inordinate amount of time, which is quite normal anyway.

          Yeah I’m pretty confident they are embarking on a much better chapter with much better potential from more of the teams and drivers. I hope to hear the drivers are enjoying themselves and thrilled to be able to race more closely without ruining tires. Surely there are many ways to improve F1, and reasons to, as have been covered extensively, and this is the road they’ve chosen, Liberty, Brawn, and the teams. That speaks volumes to me. They’ve set a path, and I’m thrilled to go along for the ride, through thick and thin. Obviously. I’ve made it this far:)

          1. @robbie, I hear you. All I’ll say is that I expect (and I think you do to) it to take some time before F1 reaches that goal – maybe not as long as this last period but then this last period shouldn’t have taken as long as it did.

            I’m just hoping not to be disappointed after all the “work” they put in.

            Roll on next year.

  5. Luckily they took enough off red bull from taking their drivers out it hasn’t mattered yet

    1. Yes, that still feels so wrong. I mean, a Baku can happen. But Silverstone and Hungary is just..

      1. When crying to FIA about wings, pit stops and illegal Honda engine doesn’t stop rb they have to do it another way, right?

        1. Notice Merc won the ‘quickest pit stop’ last weekend too. Funny that. Their behavior this year is like a President of a country that knows his time is up, all they try is anything possible to try and keep hold of the power they have held for so long. Have no interests in either drivers camp, but Mercedes 8 years of dominating the sport has to come to an end this year, for the sake of the future of the sport. If they win again this year, and then are quickest out of the box next year then the ‘new’ generation of fans that Liberty are so desperate to get wont bother tuning in as why would you if the quickest car for a decade is the same still and fans can easily predict who is going to qualify on pole and win the race. And before people start harping on about ‘well there has always been periods of time where a team dominates’……. yes there has, but nothing has come close in the past to the level of dominance Mercedes has had since 2014. Not Lotus in the 60’s, Mclaren in the 80’s, Williams in the 90’s or Ferrari in the 2000’s. Even Red Bull’s perceived dominance at the start of the last decade was actually only for 2 years (2011 & 2013) so for the good of the sport lets hope the next period of sporting regulations gives us seasons like 97, 2003, 2010 & 2012, and not seasons like 88, 92, 2002, 2004 and 2014-2020

          1. then the ‘new’ generation of fans that Liberty are so desperate to get wont bother tuning in as why

            Are you their spokesman?

        2. When crying to FIA about wings, pit stops and illegal Honda engine doesn’t stop rb they have to do it another way, right?

          How is this ANY different to crying about qually modes, DAS, engine spec freeze and all the countless aspects RB have cried about for the last few years just to barely scrape up a marginally faster car.

  6. The first few races after the summer break have been the strong point of Mercedes in the years they had a real battle with other teams for the WDC and WCC. If we look at Lewis vs Max 2021, it’s 51.5 points vs 55.5 points post summer break. Bottas has taken no points from Verstappen since the summer break (hardly did prior, only 2 fastest laps and well, Hungary).

    If we look at 2017 and 2018, it was quite a bit different. In 2017 it was 93 for Lewis and 45 for Vettel. In 2018 it was again 93 for Lewis and 67 for Vettel. Bottas finished ahead of Vettel in 3 out of 8 races when both drivers finished.

    1. After summer break:
      In 2017 they omologated the last power unit before other teams so they could still use oil in fuel
      In 2018 they had the so called by FIA “illegal but not too much illegal” holed rims that they took away in Austin to avoid protests after winning all they had to win in the races before

      Add the big Ferrari updates that never work after the summer and there you have it

      1. Add the big Ferrari updates that never work after the summer and there you have it

        LOL, there’s quite a bit of truth in that. No one knows what to expect whenever Ferrari claims that they’ve made a huge update. It’s kinda like U2’s next single…

    2. TBF to Vettel, he would have won in Malaysia had it not been for engine problems. In fact, even with the Singapore crash, has Vettel won both in Malaysia and Suzuka (super getaway in the latter, could have been 1st by 2nd turn, but again engine problem – spark plug *face palm*), he would have won the 2017 WDC – HAM 349 pts, Vettel 355 pts. So reliability plays a huge factor.

      But yeah 2018 was a lost opportunity, could have easily been 9 wins or more for Vettel for the season (5 + baku, germany, monza, USA, etc.)

      1. 1234123412341234
        2nd October 2021, 17:18

        I didn’t remember Vettel having such a good initial launch in 2017 japan but I went and looked back and you’re right, without the faulty spark plug he would have taken the lead.

        He really deserved the wdc that year.

  7. Do DRS trains really exist? Everyone seems to think so. But the lead car of the “train” doesn’t have DRS and theoretically should be passed by the car behind.

    1. While you are right, I think they are most pronounced when the 2nd car at the front of it is slower. The 2nd car can’t get by the first, cause it’s slower. 3rd car and back can’t pass, because the DRS of the 2nd car is enough to keep it up there.

    2. @jimfromus Of course the DRS train exists, and it is the same as the processions that took place before DRS. Having/using DRS is not a guarantee of a pass, just a bandage to somewhat compensate for cars that are way too dependent on clean air. So even with DRS, a faster car can still be hampered by a slower car in front due to it’s dirty air, and as we have seen often the dirty air effect starts to ruin the trailing cars tires and mess with said tire temps, graining etc. So particularly when DRS is not effective enough then of course the leading car may be holding up the trailing car, and the cars behind that one, all with DRS, are also held up.

  8. Well, the Mercedes has won 2 out of the last 11 races and led just a few laps in the last 8-9 races as someone else pointed out. This is unprecedented by Mercedes in the hybrid era so Toto’s right in that respect.

    Here’s where things get interesting… Let’s look at each driver’s points for Mercedes and Red Bull and see what’s going on.

    Bottas is hitting his expected operatic note scoring just 61% of Lewis’ points over the season. That matches his 2017 worst season (60%) and is close to last year’s results (64%) but they are a far cry of the 78% and 84% of his best seasons at Mercedes. It’s possible that he may for the first time dip under 60% at a time when Mercedes need him the most.

    So I guess the answer to the question of whether Bottas is underperforming would probably be yes because he was capable of scoring 80% of Lewis’ points in 2 seasons in the past. One season may have been a fluke but two suggests that he can do that. We can also use Rosberg as a baseline and he averaged 80% range when fighting with Lewis (except 2016). But this season is very competitive and Red Bull is not the only threat – the Mercedes powered cars are taking it to Mercedes.

    When it comes to Lewis, Bottas’ points are suggesting that Lewis is not underperforming especially when you consider the greater pressure from all sides this season. Sure you can look at particular moments and point a finger but over the course of a season, you can recover points. Given the points he has scored compared to Max and Valtteri, you could make the argument that he’s hitting the max points the car is capable of.

    The shocking and not so shocking news is that Perez is under 50%. I expected him to be more competitive. In terms of points, he’s matching Albon’s performance who had an extra 8 races in the Red Bull. He’s doing way better than Gasly in the Red Bull who was at the 35% mark. Can he improve? History has proven that the Red Bull Hybrid car has a very narrow performance margin which started with Vettel and continued with Gasly, Albon, and now Perez. It’s so bad to the point that Red Bull threw in the towel and aren’t looking for a new driver anymore.

    Which leaves us with Verstappen – the combination of Red Bull and Verstappen is the fastest this season. He’s already won 7 races, had retirements (well Baku was the same as retiring) in 3 which he could have won. I think he could have won some of the first races of the season too. That would have put him at 10 wins for this season. But he has won 7 races and has double the points of Perez which is where he’s supposed to be historically speaking unless Perez is more like Gasly than Albon.

    If we look at points, the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers are all doing as expected. Red Bull and Mercedes are throwing the kitchen sink at each other. McLaren has a state-of-the-art sink to match its supercars. We know Ferrari will pull out a shiny sink on at least a few tracks. Williams has ordered a sink for Russell. Alonso is looking to steal a team’s sink or grab one off track:-)

    What is remarkable is that Mercedes and Lewis are leading the championship having led just a few laps in the last half of this season and having won just 2 of the last 11 races.

    Curious to see what others have to say :-)

    1. Ït is remarkable.. especially when you look at the compounding errors and the unbelievable luck involved at mercedes/Lewis.
      look at Monza, normally a dnf or at least a very bad result.. silverstone the same etc…
      If lewis is on top, for now its mainly by shear luck .

      1. Well, every point Lewis has lost or gained, Max has either gained or thrown away. You can make the case that Lewis could have had 300+ points this season but didn’t for XYZ reason. You can just as easily make the case that Max could have had 300+ points this season but didn’t for XYZ reason.

        1. That settles that then..

        2. @freelittlebirds Not sure the point of your disjointed diatribe. It isn’t remarkable that LH leads given the big points that Max was robbed of, which we all saw and understand is the reason Max isn’t much further ahead of LH. And then you follow by insinuating LH only lost or gained points, whereas Max either gained or ‘threw away’ points. I guess if the point of this exercise is to show your bias towards LH, then ok, well done. I think we already knew it though.

          1. @robbie I can certainly help you understand it although I do feel your request for clarification was poorly worded.

            It means that looking at the points, Hamilton is scoring what he normally scores vis-a-vis Bottas.

            Hamilton has been scoring 5.25 points less per race this season compared to last season while Bottas is scoring 3 points less. I hope you can figure out the reason based on F1 scoring. But overall, Hamilton is doing the best he has done versus Bottas. Is it reasonable to expect Lewis to find another gear in the most competitive season?

            Looking at Red Bull, as I mentioned Perez is scoring the same percentage of points that Albon scored (<50%). Max has gained 3.7 points per race this season and Perez has gained 3.89 points per race over Albon (apples to oranges but very symmetrical). Given the fact that Max is now fighting for P1 and P2 and probably could have swept like Lewis did last season, you can make the argument Max should have gained around 5 points per race this season, just as Lewis lost 5 points.

            As I said to @balue, you can provide XYZ reason for both drivers but I don’t believe either is underperforming. Personally, I think there were more points on the table available for Max but that doesn’t mean he’s capable of getting all the points or that it’s reasonable. Every driver will throw points away over a season.

          2. @freelittlebirds I wasn’t requesting clarification. You are consistently claiming Max threw points away, and I disagree. We don’t need to see the points of VB and SP to prove anything. It is irrelevant how LH has historically done against VB, and how Max is doing vs SP. VB and SP aren’t in the fight.

            Max has been taking a much more capable car this year to the WDC fight where he was taken out in a number of races. LH has made more mistakes than usual. You want to disregard that and just look at the points alone for some unscientific analysis that you bottom line (in two comments now) as Max throwing away points, and that’s nonsense. Max was sweeping LH until LH made a mistake and took him out in Silverstone, then VB made a mistake that took him out in the next race. Max was performing well enough at Baku for the win, a blown Pirelli took him out, LH ended up poised to win but threw that opportunity away. Max took LH out when it was for lesser points. It’s silly to ignore the circumstances upon analysis of drivers’ seasons. Convenient of you to just shuffle the reasons under the carpet and bottom line it that Max has thrown points away, based on previous seasons points.

            I’m sure the point of your exercise is to satisfy yourself and try to convince others that Max has only himself to blame for not having more points. Conveniently for you the actual content of the season doesn’t matter, just the points, and how those compare to last year which is past.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            1st October 2021, 15:37

            @robbie by your analysis, the worst soccer player on the planet would be Cristiano Ronaldo. If you look at how many shots he needs to score a goal, he totally sucks.

            As I tell my son, the easiest soccer player to dispossess is Neymar. He looks like a fool in almost every match at some point. Neymar stops to do some great skill, the defender steals the ball and runs off with it and Neymar is wondering what happened. That doesn’t mean Neymar isn’t a world class player.

            The point is you cannot look at a single moment and point a finger. What if a soccer player scores 3 goals with 3 shots? That’s a conversion rate of 100% and 5-6 times better than Ronaldo. Do you get rid of Cristiano and bring that guy in ASAP? Your logic is that missing a shot is inconceivable and therefore the other guy will take 100 shots and score 100 goals. Sure, in your little shop of wonders perhaps.

            You have to look at the performance of the driver over the season and the way to do that is to check what they are scoring and compare them to their previous season, their current teammates, and past teammates. The general consensus is that Bottas is not getting what a driver like Rosberg would get out of the Mercedes. He managed it twice but the rest of the time he’s hitting 60% of Lewis’ points. Hamilton has never scored more than 60% of a teammates’ points in the hybrid Mercedes – to expect him to do it this season is unreasonable.

            You could argue that both Lewis and Bottas are having the exact same loss of form and tossed many points. Feel free to do so.

            As for Verstappen, he has double his teammates’ points so I don’t think anyone can say he’s underperforming.

            If anything everyone is doing as they usually do with the exception of Perez who’s following in Albon’s footsteps which is way better than Gasly’s.

            You can make the argument that Perez is overperforming and Max is overperforming even more to have double the points but Perez is P5 in the championship with Sainz right behind him so the argument that he’s overperforming in a car that is capable of winning 67% of the races with one driver sounds more like science fiction than reality.

            And by the way, you are one of the staunchest defenders that Rosberg won his championship in 2016 based on skill fair and square so I believe you can’t point to any specific circumstances for either Hamilton or Verstappen when Rosberg took out Lewis in 2016 and gained 14 points doing so and got no penalty. Rosberg lost in 2016 although he did put up a spectacular fight.

          4. @freelittlebirds More blah blah blah and as to your last paragraph, as to defending NR in 2016 what I have always said is that one cannot point the finger at one DNF for LH, for example, as the reason LH lost that year. One cannot boil it down to any one specific thing as that is purely convenience argumentation. It was about all the factors in all the races that added up to Nico winning the WDC. That is why it is ridiculous of you to just go by points, including last year’s points, to analyze this season. I have never said Nico won by skill fair and square, full stop, but I have said that he won for many reasons, and those reasons can be found in each race that constituted the season. Those include LH’s bad starts in several races, and Nico letting LH by in Monaco etc etc. So when I highlight some of the big events of this season so far, it is merely to remind you that everything that has happened this season adds up to where we are now, and to just go by points along, especially going by last year’s, is nonsense. You are trying to make it about points=performance and the fact is that Max was performing absolutely fine those times when he was taken out.

            Rosberg lost in 2016? Uh, alrighty then. I guess in your world.

          5. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            1st October 2021, 16:11

            @Robbie Spain 2016… That was a clear penalty for Nico and a 14 point swing.

            More blah blah blah

            You’re currently underperforming :-) I shall point to this argument from this moment forward.

            Do you remember Oct 1st 2021 when your argument was “blah blah blah”? :-)

      2. @erikje
        If any driver is on top it will be on merit. They respectfully capitalised on the opportunity presented.

        1. No, hamilton didn’t capitalise on the opportunities presented, baku, he simply got luckier, way luckier (around 45 points so far).

  9. I think they had a bit of a fuel worry, it seemed, and then when he picked up the pace, he was very quick.

    I understand that carrying ‘extra’ fuel slows the car a bit, but here they are, slowing the car a bit because they don’t have the fuel. Wouldn’t it make sense to fuel the car so they don’t have to lift and coast? I know it’s a calculation but we see all the time how they have to conserve fuel. Add the extra 5 kg. and race.

    1. Sometimes you have to use more fuel than needed and expected. Remember that the more you « push »the car, rapid downshifts, late breaking, lower gears with higher revs, shifting in the blue area of the steering wheel and using engine braking frequently are all causes of more fuel consumption. I would not be surprised if Mclaren actually miscalculated their fuel, or if Norris used more than expected really due to how hard he worked during the entire race.

      1. I agree, and that’s my point. Maybe the better strategy is to fuel the car to cover this sort of stuff. This almost seems like the qualifying hold-ups with cars not making it past start/finish before the session expires and not able to do a final lap. It seems like over thinking things.

      2. I imagine they also half expected rain and resultant safety cars, couple that with wanting to get to turn 3 in the best possible position.

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