Wolff laments Mercedes’ “worst qualifying session” since he joined them

2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said their qualifying performance at Spa was the worst he’d experienced during his time with them.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell will start from fourth and fifth on the grid respectively for tomorrow’s race at Spa after they recorded the seventh and eighth best times in Q3. The pair will gain three positions on the starting grid due to penalties for Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon.

Wolff admitted the 1.8-second margin between Verstappen and Hamilton’s best times in Q3 was an unacceptable performance for the team which took pole position for the last race before the summer break in Hungary.

“You can’t be on pole three weeks before – albeit for very different conditions, different track – and then be 1.8 seconds off the pace, the next one,” Wolff said.

“There’s something which we totally don’t understand, or seem to get right. Clearly Red Bull is here in a league of their own. What is the next Ferrari, eight or nine tenths off? So I don’t know what that is, but that is no consolation.

“It’s for me, the worst qualifying session that I had in 10 years. Irrespective of what positions we are going to start tomorrow and just even being on pole the [previous] weekend and then three weeks later being nowhere is just not acceptable for ourselves.”

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Wolff could offer no explanation for why Mercedes were so much further off the pace of their rivals than they had been across many of the more recent rounds of the championship.

“I mean, if we would understand we could tune it,” he said. “But the car is draggy in the straight line, Lewis said it’s like a dragging a parachute behind him.

“It is unstable on the rear. It understeers through I think was eight [Bruxelles] or nine [Speaker’s corner]. It bounces through the high speed and gives no confidence. There is not [one] positive that I heard about how the car performs here this weekend and throughout the weekend. So I think now it’s time to consolidate and decide what we do next.”

Russell believes Mercedes struggles’ were mainly due to cooler conditions making them unable to get their tyres into the optimal operating window – a problem they have struggled with throughout the 2022 season.

“The tyres are the overriding factor,” he explained. “If you get the tyres in the right window or the wrong window, it could be a second a lap different.

“I think it’s inherent car limitations that we have. You can look at it two ways – over the course of the season, we benefit a lot more on a Sunday than the limitation we have on a Saturday. We’ve probably only had three out of these 14 races have been really bad qualifying [sessions] for us. Here and Imola spring to mind and maybe Monaco as well – all tracks where you struggle with tyre temperature.

“So there’s a clear theme. We want to try and find a solution, but we don’t have that answer at the moment.”

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2022 Belgian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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28 comments on “Wolff laments Mercedes’ “worst qualifying session” since he joined them”

  1. If it is down to the tyres, the flip side to that is that they will warm up in the race and last longer, giving a strategic advantage – not that that will get them past Sainz and Perez or help them defend again Verstappen and LeClerc.

  2. Back to the old drawing board it is then.

  3. Wolff could offer no explanation for why Mercedes were so much further off the pace of their rivals than they had been across many of the more recent rounds of the championship.

    the new safety directive they so clearly advocated?

    1. It would be so hilarious if their problem would be down to that

    2. Wolff is just playing up the drama. Verstappen has been ridiculously fast here, much faster than Pérez and the Ferrari’s. Compared to Sainz’ pole time, Mercedes isn’t much further off than at other fast circuits like Silverstone or Saudi Arabia, and closer than they were to pole in Azerbaijan – percentage wise.

      1. Just put in the numbers, and if I haven’t made any errors, Mercedes had a bigger qualifying deficit to Ferrari in Australia, Emilia Romagna (Q2 times) and Azerbaijan. This is however their worst performance relative to Red Bull, aside from Emilia Romagna (Q2 times) and Canada, both of which were rain affected. The same is true for Ferrari relative to Red Bull; those two were the only races where their deficit in qualifying was larger.

        However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Red Bull has pulled way clear of the field. Pérez was not only unable to match Verstappen’s pace, he wasn’t even able to beat Sainz. So the explanation for the big gap has to involve giving credit to Verstappen. He has been dominant all weekend, so it’s not just a matter of getting the tyres perfect for one lap.

  4. It would be so hilarious if their problem would be down to that

  5. The only thing we know is that it couldn’t possibly be the unique concept of their car. Because Mercedes’ software tools say it’s a world-beater. And they couldn’t possibly not translate to the real world. Tools >> reality, every time, all the time.

    Must be that new floor they brought to the first Grand Prix run under the mid-season rules changes Toto and Mercedes so desperately lobbied for.

  6. You are implying that Merc hired a bunch of people with no experience or background after losing key people to Red Bull. And those new people are responsible for designing the car that appears flawed by design, really?

    1. Yes. Mercedes hired people not because of their skills or experience, but rather color of their skin and gender. Even worse, while Red Bull staff were working tirelessly on developing cars and procedures (like lightning fast pit stops), in Mercedes factory they preferred to spend time on these activities:

      At the start of Accelerate 25, we pledged to improve our awareness through internal education opportunities so that all employees had the opportunity to enhance their understanding and provide their input. A bespoke Accelerate Inclusion workshop, facilitated by the EW Group, has been rolled out across the team, including senior leadership, along with 320 recruiters taking part in Unconscious Bias training.

      Over the past year, we have hosted a number of internal networking events, we celebrated Pride Month and Black History Month for the first time, held workshops on Menopause Awareness, British Sign Language and the Ethics of Ethnic Diversity, and joined the Safe Space Alliance

      By complete coincidence Red Bull won 2021 title and are on their way to double crown in 2022, while Mercedes are puzzled about their performance every grand prix weekend.

  7. You replaced them with diversity hires to fulfill Accelerate 25 quotas.

    Diversity hires – what do you mean here? Black people – like maybe the highly successful Lewis Hamilton?
    Asian people – like the team that created the Honda engine?

    Are you saying merc should only employee white men?

    1. The point being is to hire people on merit, irrespective of race, etc.

      1. @Serg. Hire people on merit, irrespective of race etc? Yes, that’s what we are asking for. I want to live in a world where people are hired on merit, where people are not disadvantaged in the jobs market just because they are not male, not white, have the wrong accent, have the wrong sexual orientation, are disabled, or vegetarian, or too old. And that also means giving people equal opportunities and encouragement to acquire the skills, not just at the pinnacle of sports, but all the way through our society. The people who shout the slogan loudest “hire on merit, not to fill a diversity quota” are usually nursing the unspoken subtext that they believe the white Anglo-Saxon male is inevitably the most naturally qualified for any skilled job, and they are terrified of having to compete on a level playing field.

        1. And what exactly do you base that claim on?

        2. Well said.

  8. That’s a load of crap. If anything Toto Wolff is known for is that he doesn’t let people go and will make it as difficult as possible for the ones determined to leave forcing them with the usual 1 year gardening leave which is the maximum that he can do.

    Second, RBR also lost a lot of employees to both Aston Martin and to a lesser extent Ferrari. There is nothing that suggests that Mercedes diversity program is not based on merit. From what has emerged from engineers that interviewed with Mercedes both successfully and unsuccessfully and from a technical standpoint the interview process is as tough as hell and you really have to prove you have an exceptional ability to work with them.

    I’m a long time Toto, Hamilton and Mercedes detractor by the way !

    1. Why do you think they lost so many employees then? Salaries? Don’t make me laugh that Toto+Mercedes+Ineos can’t match what Red Bull/Aston/Ferrari offered. What we know is other teams focus on producing the fastest race car possible, rather than holding “workshops on Menopause Awareness, British Sign Language and the Ethics of Ethnic Diversity” like Mercedes do. I wonder what highly qualified engineers, like let’s say Adrian Newey, would prefer to spend their time on.

  9. @armchairexpert I guess if those new hire were from a more “acceptable” background Mercedes wouldn’t have struggled ?
    I sometimes have to kick myself after reading these sort of comments to realize that we’re living in 2022 instead of 1453.

    1. Yes, hiring policies should be based solely on meritocracy, not identity politics like Mercedes have been doing last 2 years. Red Bull (with hired 50-100 successful Merc engineers) survived regulations change is on course for back to back titles, while Mercedes is 2s/lap slower than them at Spa. You may not like the anwer, but the truth out there.

  10. The sky is always falling with Toto! Even if they were 3 seconds ahead in Quali he’d claim it was the worst scenario he’s ever faced.

  11. Worse than Lewis’ Q1 elimination in Saudi Arabia? I guess he has a short memory. How melodramatic.

    1. I can see why this feels worse: hamilton had a bad qualifying that time, russell showed the performance of the car, here it looks like the performance is very bad for both drivers.

  12. Its a longer track. Hungary is a short track. Of course a car that’s been slower all year will have a bigger gap at the longer track. That’s just maths.

    I also suspect, they are probably overweight and/or down on hp. So, a track with elevation gain, and long periods at full throttle will look worse than a go kart track like hungary…

    1. The first paragraph is insufficient to explain the gap, the laptime isn’t that much longer than hungary to justify such a gap, the 2nd paragraph is possible and that’s what merc is trying to understand.

    2. Not to mention, russell was faster than everyone in hungary quali, so if you make a projection of that, if anything they’d be further ahead on a longer track.

  13. Agreed. It’s becoming rather unpleasant around here as of late.

  14. Mercedes stated 2 years ago:

    We strongly believe a more diverse and inclusive team will not only make us faster, but also inspire others to set ambitious targets in this area.

    Have more diverse and inclusive team made Mercedes faster last 2 seasons, as they THEMSELVES claimed? Yes/no, give me your answer.

    1. Delete this comment please, as the original discussion has been deleted.

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