Wolff: ‘Another really bad start’ for Mercedes won’t drive Hamilton elsewhere

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In the round-up: Toto Wolff downplays prospect of Lewis Hamilton leaving Mercedes at the end of the year after team’s poor start to the season.

In brief

Hamilton and Mercedes will stick together – Wolff

Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff believes Lewis Hamilton‘s confidence in the team remains unchanged despite starting the season on the back foot for the second year in a row.

“The Lewis situation, you heard him on the radio. I think he’s an integral part of the team, picking the team up, and we’re always sticking together,” said Wolff.

“I don’t think that’s going to change just because we’ve had another start that was really bad. We won eight constructor championships and we won six driver championships with him and that’s holding, that relationship holds.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Wolff is confident Hamilton won’t look elsewhere for titles
Wolff did not comment on if Mercedes have a back-up plan for if Hamilton did decide to leave in the future, saying “I think it’s not the point to talk about the driver situation in 2024”. However the pair have already spoken about extending his current deal, which expires at the end of this year.

Alfa Romeo pleased to beat McLaren and Alpine

Alfa Romeo departed the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix fifth in Formula 1’s constructors’ standings and ahead of two of the teams they languinshed behind last year.

Valtteri Bottas started 12th and finished eighth. Team mate Zhou Guanyu lined up one place behind him on the grid but ended the race a lapped 16th and could only take solace in netting fastest lap for the second time in his F1 career.

“The team did a really good job tonight and we can be satisfied with the final result, which shows our continuous progress and the value of the work we did during pre-season testing,” said Alfa Romeo’s team representative Alessandro Alunni Bravi. “We were in the top five teams for the whole of the race, and we finished ahead of McLaren and Alpine, which is as much as we could have hoped to get tonight

“It was a good collective effort: the drivers did well in the car, with the added teamwork contribution of Zhou setting the fastest time at the very end; the strategic choices and the pit stops were really good, and all together we contributed to the four points we bring home.

“This result is in line with what we were expecting following last week’s testing and the data we got in practice.”

Tough debut weekend for F3 rookie Browning

Luke Browning was a late addition to the Formula 3 grid with Hitech GP, being confirmed just days before racing began, but he impressed on his first weekend in the championship by charging from 17th to fifth in Sunday’s feature.

“It’s really difficult,” Browning said of his first race experiences. “I knew it was going to be all about tyre management. It’s something the team highlighted for me. I really tried in the opening laps to not use too much, not do too many wheelspins before the start and not over-push the tyres early on. The car was great today and I’m glad I was able to do this result.

“It’s super tough. I did no GP3 [test] days going into the season [and] I didn’t do the post-season test out in Jerez last year. I’ve literally rocked up at the first round but Hitech did a great job of making me as prepared as possible, using the simulator back at the workshop. We knew our race runs from testing were really strong and thankfully, I could show that in today’s race.”

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Comment of the day

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and his driver Sergio Perez have quipped about the similarity of the Aston Martin AMR23 to their own cars after Fernando Alonso finished third for Aston Martin in the Bahrain GP behind the two Red Bulls.

“I think that it’s flattering to see the resemblance of that car to ours,” Horner said. “So it was great to see the three of them on the podium.”

Following Red Bull design trends has been commented on by other teams too, since they have been the fastest cars on the grid for the past two seasons.

There’s not really much to say – the majority of the cars look just like the Red Bull now because that’s the obvious thing to do. Copying Adrian Newey isn’t a spectacularly bold decision to make! Aston Martin did a good job of it and now have a fast car whereas Mercedes decided they knew better than Newey and are now faced with another wasted season.

Horner and Perez can make quips about it but make no mistake, if Newey was at Mercedes and they’d just blown the field away in 2022, Red Bull would be copying everything they could from it…

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On this day in motorsport

  • 25 years ago today McLaren locked out the front row of the grid for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, seven-tenths clear of Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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32 comments on “Wolff: ‘Another really bad start’ for Mercedes won’t drive Hamilton elsewhere”

  1. Is keeping a very expensive Lewis Hamilton in their car a priority for a team that may or may not ever be competitive in this regulation cycle?

    1. The Dolphins
      7th March 2023, 5:37

      Feels a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Lewis is still a 7x WDC and it would do wonders for the Mercedes brand to make it 8. In the meantime Lewis is exempt from the cost cap and the team have the financial resources to keep him and his fanbase is quite profitable for them. The only reason I could see them parting ways at the moment is if Lewis runs foul of the FIA’s censorship rules one too many times

    2. He is still good enough to finish 5 seconds ahead of his team mate who is 13 years younger and one of the rising stars of F1. So yeah they want to keep him on.

      1. One tenth a lap can be worth a lot in a close fight for the Championship.

        An extra $35 million (give or take) is a lot when fighting for sixth-ish.

        1. But Mercedes had that kind of money to throw around. With the cost cap in place, their running costs have likely fallen dramatically. The cost of things which are outside the cap is not going to be a significant consideration for any of the three “big” teams right now unless their parent organisations hit a major problem.

          1. I don’t doubt that the three partners can scrounge up the funds to keep Lewis in the car.

            I doubt it makes financial sense to pay Lewis for whatever points over replacement he’ll be good for given the current competitiveness of the team.

          2. Getting rid of Lewis would basically be an admission of defeat, telling the world they don’t believe they will be in a position to fight for a championship for several years. Then, when they do come back with a championship capable car, they would have to hope they had a driver capable of exploiting that, or were able to procure one and get them up to speed fast.

            They would also lose a huge amount of publicity Lewis brings them. Seeing as car manufacturers use F1 as basically advertising, losing that publicity would make their investment lose value

  2. Mercedes is back at where they were in the V8 era.

    A team trying to leapfrog the others and failing every single time.

  3. It’s funny how there’s no controversy around Aston Martin copying red bull when only a couple of seasons ago there was in their guise as racing point due to the resemblance to the 2019 Mercedes. What’s the difference? Perfectly fine by me. It’s how the sport’s always been.

    1. The Dolphins
      7th March 2023, 5:33

      @tommy-c There is a big difference between what Racing Point did with the “Pink Mercedes” compared to what Aston Martin have done. Arguably they have not copied Red Bull’s sidepod design, AM have improved on it with the drop on the inside accelerating the airflow to the diffuser. If anything I expect teams (read Mercedes) to copy Aston Martin’s design over Red Bull’s

    2. We’ve had the ‘green Red Bull’ outrage last year already, when Aston Martin switched from their initial high-sidepod design to the totally-not-inspired-by-Red-Bull ramps.

    3. Aston is inspied by, but not identical to Red Bull, the RP20 was an obvious carbon copy of the W10 with only minor differences.

    4. @tommy-c I think the difference is that with RP there were questions about whether Mecerdes had illegally shared data with RP to allow them to copy their design, whereas there is no close relationship between AM and RB, so no suspicion of any illegally shared data.

      1. I think the difference is that with RP there were questions about whether Mecerdes had illegally shared data with RP to allow them to copy their design,

        99% legal by the regulations of the season (changed immediately after as part of the FIA investigation outcome)
        If RP had run the Merc brake rear ducts on one race the previous season and then based their new design on them it would have been 100% legal. “Grandfather rights” for the brake ducts being the item they didn’t tick the box on.

        I can’t help wondering whether any change in regs would have occurred if the judgement was a “case not proven”.

  4. What everyone seems to be missing in the “Aston have copied Red Bull” comments and articles is that Dan Fallows, ex-Head of Aerodynamics at Red Bull is now the Technical Director of Aston Martin. The fact that the cars have similar sidepods concepts isn’t exactly shocking in that context… :)

    1. @geemac
      Adrian Newey is undoubtedly the maestro behind Red Bull Racing’s success. He has a unique talent for bringing all the pieces of the car together to create a winning machine. Even if he is not the originator of every genius idea, his knowledge and skill enable made him a true maestro of Formula One engineering.

      Newey’s ability to improve on other people’s ideas is truly remarkable. In 2009, Red Bull was the first team to successfully integrate the double diffuser, and Newey played a significant role in perfecting it. Similarly, the DDRS in 2012 was another example of Newey’s mastery of copying and enhancing existing technologies. Once the team secretly tested it in Monza and integrated it into the RB8 in Singapore, the car became unbeatable.

      The RB19’s dominance can be attributed to the seamless integration of aerodynamics and mechanical engineering. In comparison, Ferrari was considered to have the strongest car in terms of peak downforce last year, but their car suffered from porpoising and tyre wear even before the introduction of TD039. In contrast, the RB19 shows no signs of these issues, indicating that the suspension system is working perfectly to prevent them.

      The RB19’s suspension system appears to be a “passive” active suspension, which is nothing short of remarkable. The car is consistently well-balanced and easy to drive in all conditions and on every type of tyre, regardless of the fuel load. In qualifying, for instance, Leclerc trailed Verstappen by just a tenth of a second on his first Q3 lap, but Ferrari seemed to struggle once they put fuel in the car.

      It’s easy to overlook Red Bull Racing’s other master of mechanical engineering, Rob Marshall, given the attention Adrian Newey receives. Marshall, renowned for his work on the “mass damper” during his time at Renault, is a critical part of the team’s success. Red Bull was reluctant to release Dan Fallows and even tried to counter Aston Martin’s offer, indicating their concern about the knowledge he would bring to the team.

      Although Aston Martin has a talented mechanical engineer in Luca Furbatto, Fallows’ input has been instrumental in bringing the team to the forefront. Aston Martin was the first team to copy Red Bull’s sidepods last year, but they did not see an improvement in traction or tyre wear.

      However, this year, Aston Martin suddenly boasts the best car in terms of traction and it’s easier on the tyres. This can be attributed to a trick in the suspension that Red Bull has, and which has been passed on to Aston Martin thanks to Fallows. This success owes much to Marshall’s expertise, rather than solely to Adrian Newey.

  5. I’m also confident he’ll continue in any case.

    BE saying the 2008 Singapore GP results should’ve got nullified is pointless these days.
    He had that chance until that year’s last WMSC meeting in November or December, so all his fault for not using that opportunity in time.

    COTD is spot-on. Most teams will always try & emulate what’s the outright fastest presently.

    1. BE saying the 2008 Singapore GP results should’ve got nullified is pointless these days.

      However pointless, it is nonetheless true that it’s an absolute travesty for Fernando Alonso to still be considered the winner of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.

      1. The ship on the Singapore result has long since sailed.

        But it’s classic Ecclestone to bring it up now that Alonso is getting some attention again. While he has always denied being in the loop, his capacity to discuss how the entire race unfolds from the cockpit (contrast that with drivers who barely seem to know how their own race is taking shape) makes that an extremely unconvincing claim. For him to agree to such a “curious” strategy is just not credible.

        While other champions have sometimes collided with others, that has mostly been an error of judgement in the moment. And at least Senna crashed into Prost on his own, rather than having his teammate do it.

      2. @proesterchen
        and Hamilton the world champion in 2008…

        1. Yup, has a lot to thank to Nelsinho. Way more than Fred.
          One more race win was pretty much irrelevant for Fred and I’m sure he was not involved in the Crashgate. Looks a lot more as the team’s misguided effort to keep him onboard.

    2. Its like saying the 1988 Olympic 100m races result should be nullified because Ben Johnson cheated. FIA should have disqualified Alonso and promote Nico Rosberg as the winner

  6. Horner is a funny guy… 8 years their design was horrrendous. 1 year Mercedes have a flawed design…

    1. Design wasn’t bad the engine was suppar when they got a new engine (Honda) things went much better …..

  7. Toto is right as the car actually isn’t that bad. He just likes to state it as lobby towards Liberty and FIA to get a favourable regulation change just like he aimed at in ’22 with porpoising and ’21 with the tyres. Key here is to give him as little as possible airtime.

    1. You talk as if Team Prinicples badgering FIA over the rules is something exclusive to Toto Wolff and Mercedes. Any Team Principle worth their salt would do that to either gain or keep an advantage.

      1. Fair point. But Toto is king since the difference is he actually gets his way since he plays the game best. Whereas best is that people actually fall for it or are pressured (politically) into it. When Horner does it, it is just childish, transparent and it makes you feel sorry for all the people around him. With Toto it is actually affecting the competition and it reveals FIFA and Liberty’s weaknesses.

      2. Ahum, FIA (not that there is much difference in attitude between them).

  8. “Guys, what we need to do is go to press, bang on about how hopeless our season will be and then the FIA might panic and introduce some problems for Red Bull.”

    – Wolff

    1. Exactly, hence the remarks from Lewis and George. Clearly an internal briefing preceded this story from our Mercedes trio. Problem is a large part of their PR antics were exposed in 2021, so nowadays people start to think firstly, before just accepting what they say.

  9. I said pre-season but I think it’s disappointing but not surprising at how similar the cars are now given the overly restrictive nature of the current regulations.

    Sure if you do a side by side comparison you can spot some differences but on TV most of them just look the same now because it’s obvious that given how restrictive the regulations are there is only one concept that works best so everyone will just navigate to cars that look like that.

    I really miss the days where there was noticeably different concepts and where we had cars that looked different as that variety in designs made things far more interesting as did the varied development paths available that helped create that variety.

    It is essentially becoming a pseudo-spec series now sadly, Indycar+ as i’ve been calling it.

    1. I prefer to call it Indycar – …

      Was nice to listen to Marcus Armstrong talk about how he saw Indycar as much more of a driver’s series than F1, as it’s so much more difficult to continually wrestle control over Indycars than to cruise round at 80% in an F1 limo on billiard smooth circuits. Callum Ilott convinced him, and now he’s got to drive one, Armstrong now gets it. I’m just sad that the vast majority of global motorsport fans ignore it.

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