Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2022

Title defeat this year less painful than controversial 2021 decider – Wolff

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Mercedes’ failure to compete for the championships this year isn’t as painful as their defeat in the controversial outcome to the 2021 season, says team principal Toto Wolff.

The team’s run of eight consecutive constructors championship titles ended this year as its W13 chassis was plagued with problems from the beginning of the season. Having won nine races last year they took only a single victory in 2022, at the penultimate round of the season in Brazil.

Mercedes won the constructors championship in 2021 but that triumph came as Lewis Hamilton lost the drivers’ title fight in a controversial final race.

“Last year was much worse,” said Wolff when asked to reflect on the two championships at the end of the season. “The situation, that one event, [was] much worse than the whole season because last year it was taken away not by our own wrongdoing. But this year, we lost it on merit. We just weren’t good enough.”

Hamilton led much of the season finale in Abu Dhabi last year, until he lost the lead in a final lap restart which was arranged in violation of the rules.

“Last year [we were] strong and how it ended within a couple of seconds, we knew that that’s it,” said Wolff. “And it’s out of [your] control, out of your hands.”

Wolff said he “lost control” in the aftermath of last year’s title fight, for “the first time since I was an adolescent.”

“In my sense of fairness, that was totally against my values,” he explained.

In contrast their uncompetitive 2022 season “was not as peaky in terms of the emotions” because Mercedes quickly realised they were not going to be contenders, said Wolff.

“We knew from the get-go, at the beginning that the car was just not good enough,” he said. “I think we understood, slowly but surely, if we peel one layer of the onion off and you think you’ve solved the problem, then there is the next one and the next one.

“Then we started to correlate where this car, that was really not a good one, where it could perform and we tried to concentrate on these tracks knowing that the more difficult ones, like Abu Dhabi, were in a way is damage limitation.

“And I think we know it was our doing. Last year Abu Dhabi wasn’t our doing, this was our doing. We knew we got it wrong [this year], we are conscious that others did a better job and this is an absolute meritocracy how the season, how the season panned out. So that is okay.”

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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...
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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33 comments on “Title defeat this year less painful than controversial 2021 decider – Wolff”

  1. He’s speaking as if 2021 was a total defeat: verstappen drove better than hamilton across the season and got the title, mercedes brought the marginally best car and best number 2 driver and they got the constructor’s title, it all ended like it should have.

    1. He surprised me last year. Until that point we only saw him under the circumstances of winning and he was a likeable calm manager. Last year showed he does not handle adversity well, is even disgraceful in defeat. I am still processing this as I used to cheer for him. I honestly don’t get it how he could turn to Christians level at the first sign of some competition. Like they were entitled to win another 8 years in a row. He has fallen a long way. I notice a new PR strategy from Mexico 2022 onwards however, where Mercedes seem to shake off their questionable behavior and see the corporate added value of saying socially accepted and desired things again in the press. Let’s see what 2023 brings and whether they can continue this much needed improvement.

      1. To be honest the finale was the culminating point of dodgy racing decisions.
        Both Hamilton and Verstappen drove great seasons in different ways, case could be made for each of them and that was no surprise to see them come together on track a few times. Unfortunately the policing was well below par and didn’t set any precedent, just making the situation worse and worse as the season progressed and more discutable decisions were made. Any sportsman trying to win according to the rules would get mad in such situation as the rules are constantly bent one way or the other.

        I didn’t care who would win, but unfortunately all lost and while the focus in on the grand finale, there was proper build up to it for half the season. Can’t see any of the protagonist that won anything from that situation.

        1. I agree. It was one of the worst seasons ever.

    2. Last year Masi gifted the title to Verstappen, it will be never forgotten, its an illegal title.

      1. a title is won over a whole season.
        In the end I think this is a fair result, as Mercedes cost Max to loose points due to their fault

        1. F1’s own aero modelling showed Max threw it away at Silverstone.

        2. “a title is won over a whole season.”

          So why did Max need the illegal gift from Masi ?

          “as Mercedes cost Max to loose points due to their fault”

          1. Max could have gone wider in Silverstone partly own fault
          2. Monza Max cost Mercedes points

          “this is a fair result”

          crossing several rules to hand someone else the title ? not fair.

          1. you are only focusing on one race now.

            you are forgetting Hungary

            Silverstone, Max could have gone wider, or Lewis should have made the apex. When going around the outside, you trust the one on the inside to take a normal line

          2. “a title is won over a whole season.”

            So why did Max need the illegal gift from Masi. So why dit HAM press the magic button? So why did HAM not change for inter at hungarian gp? So why did he slip (sorry, a bit like a rookie) at Monza? So why let he pass himself so easy by VER at France (and abu dhabi)?
            HAM drove many times very fast last year (and not in Monaco, like BOT could, so why?), but he did nothing special, not once he got a better result then was expected from the car. In the end the engine was on full power and that was just too late. I think people say it’s not only abu dhabu and a title is won over a whole season, because one less mistake and HAM would be the champion (with a lot of luck, but ok, he would be and still a respectful one).. But VER in the 2021 Mercedes was wc with possibly the same dominance as this year

      2. If Hamilton wanted the title he should’ve drived faster :-p

    3. I think that’s all true but the manner in which it ended isn’t something you can necessarily rationalise. It’s probably the stingiest way to loose a championship.

      1. It certainly wasnt a dream final. But the preceding season saw so many fraudulent happenings and angles, it kind of rendered irrelevant what would happen during the last race. We all know the season should have never come to an equal on points situation. By Mexico or Brasil Max would have wrapped it up already. It was heavily rigged in Mercedes favor to get them on par. One of the most disgusting seasons in F1 I have ever witnessed.

    4. Looking at the season as a whole, Hamilton started off on the back foot, as it were.

      But the second half of the season, he made a serious recovery, and the last half dozen races were superb. By the time Abu Dhabi happened, Hamilton had done everything he needed to do to be in contention for the WDC, and during the race, in spite of “unsportsmanlike” blocking by Checo (according to Verstappen now), was well on the way to win the title.

      Until Massi was convinced by Red Bull to ignore the rules.

      So yeah– When you’ve fought back from a deficit, have your opponent on the ropes, and are cruising to victory, to have that victory snatched away by the referee, is seriously painful.

  2. How could it be _less_ painful when your entire engineering organization failed so fundamentally that you end the season as far behind the leaders as you started?

    That’s right to the core of the identity of the team.

    1. @proesterchen I’d suggest a read of the article rather than just the heading may provide some clarity.

      1. Toto’s thinking is like being more hurt by a sudden thunderstorm ruining your birthday party one year than failing to sort catering for the next.

        I just don’t subscribe to it being somehow less painful to lose because of your own shortcomings. That’s supposed to hurt you more, motivate you to do better.

        1. But then again Toto is always only about making political statements, so what would you expect?

      2. Doesn’t matter what the article says. proesterchen will always find a way to find fault with Hamilton, Wolff, and Mercedes. Facts are irrelevant.

    2. It’s being sporting. That is the first quality for a team in a sport, and accepting you might be outperformed is something you buy into from the outset. That is very different from finding the sport’s governance has run a campaign to stop you!

      And as usual in this debate, the fact that Masi changed his mind from legal to illegal, and was then given a gagging order, is studiously avoided. Imagine the huge effort and cost, then that.

    3. How could it be _less_ painful when your entire engineering organization failed so fundamentally that you end the season as far behind the leaders as you started?

      Because that’s sort of like you left things you value on your front porch and let someone wander off with them, as opposed to have someone break into the house and steal them.

      This year they something silly and let others take the prizes, last year someone stole the most valuable item and “fenced” it to a competitor.

      1. Plus, this year, the miscreants did get a public punishment, even if it was pretty meaningless, and it was someone else that they stole from.
        It doesn’t hurt as much when it’s your neighbour that gets burgled.

        Last year’s primary miscreant was assisted into new employment, and the stolen goods receiver tried to pretend they were his all along.

  3. It will be even less painful next year when they finish at the bottom of the table

  4. “Hamilton led much of the season finale in Abu Dhabi last year”

    According to another silly article, such a drive was ‘peerless’.

  5. Seems like a fairly obvious… They lost the championship in the final race last year whereas they lost the championship this time before they even boarded the plane for the first race! Of course the final race was less painful!

    Painful or not though, losing by the finest of margins means you did a really good job so there’s something to be proud of. This year, for a team that has dominated for most of the past decade, was really bad.

  6. Everyone needs to calm down a little

  7. What on earth was the question?

    “Toto, we’re desperate for clicks over the winter. Please can you say something about last year’s title decider?”

    1. I guess they simply asked a comparison between the 2 defeats.

  8. Well Toto, 2021 was the first time Mercedes had actually had some proper competition since before you stood on the shoulders of Ross Brawn’s hard work. Its the first time you (as an individual) had to work hard for something and experience some adversity, rather than just buying your way into F1 teams and taking the glory. And as an outsider looking in, you didnt handle it very well. I guess it was one of those life lessons you were overdue. And this year you have had no choice but to deal with it better. Which I actually applaud you for.

    1. You probably missed the rule change of 2017 in your attempt to diminish Toto.

  9. Next season 2021 finale will be talked about as “two seasons” ago and not “last season” Maybe it’ll be referred to as “2021 finale”
    With all the races in between as the seasons go along 2021 finale will become more and more of a footnote, similar to 2007 it’ll just be mentioned in specific ones

    Just an observation

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