Mercedes “could have finished first and second”, admits Wolff

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by and

Mercedes missed an opportunity to score their first victory of the season and even take a one-two finish in Singapore last weekend, team principal Toto Wolff has admitted.

George Russell narrowly fell short of taking pole position, losing out to Carlos Sainz Jnr by seven hundredths of a second. He was passed by Sainz’s Ferrari team mate Charles Leclerc at the start of the grand prix, but Russell recovered to second place by half distance. He gambled on making a second pit stop later in the race and was in third when he crashed out on the final lap.

Lewis Hamilton, who qualified half a second off pole position in fifth, inherited the last place on the podium from his team mate. But Wolff said there were times during the race when the team’s strategy planner indicated they were on course to finish first and second.

“We’ve been really strong here,” he said. “We could have won the race.”

Mercedes haven’t won a race since last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, and Sainz’s victory yesterday ended the unbeaten run Red Bull has been on since the 2022 season finale.

Despite falling short of their potential in Singapore, Wolff said Mercedes’ performance will give encouragement to everyone in the team.

“We could have finished first and second on merit and that is what we need to take from here,” he said. “Clearly it will energise us and motivate even more that on this particular track we were strong. So not everything is wrong.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“When you see on the planner P1 and P2 popping up at times and you think about it, it could have been an unbelievable day and it’s not. But I’d rather fall back on the positives of this weekend and go back home and say ‘that was good one’.”

Russell drove an attacking race and often looked capable of lapping quicker than the Ferraris but was never able to get into a position where he could overtake them. Wolff said Russell showed strong pace throughout the race and his radio calls to the team encouraged them to take a gamble on making a second pit stop during a Virtual Safety Car period, which gave them a chance to win.

“I think we haven’t seen all of the pace in front, but from the outside perspective, it was just a great weekend from him and today he was on it,” said Wolff. “He was the one who pushed also for the bold call and said ‘I want to win this race’ and in the end he just ran out of laps.”

After both making their second pit stops during the VSC period, the Mercedes drivers closed in on the leaders and passed Leclerc to run third and fourth. They then caught up to Lando Norris, who they were unable to overtake. McLaren suspected Mercedes had to reduce their pace at that point to guard against overheating, but Wolff denied that was the case.

“No, not at all: Surfaces were in a healthy place, brakes were in good condition,” he said. “That was all in there.

“Carlos played it clever with the DRS. I think we had one opportunity with Lando, straight when we caught up, and that didn’t function and then everybody’s, I guess, really stuck.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Wolff called Sainz a “deserving winner” and said his intelligent use of DRS had helped thwart Mercedes’ attack. “The whole weekend he was absolutely on it.

“Managing the race from the front, making sure that Lando was in the DRS, you’ve just got to give him the credit, he was the deserving winner today.”

During the final laps of the race Hamilton complained he was being held up by Russell ahead of him. But Wolff said Mercedes never considered imposing team orders on their drivers.

“I think both played for the victory and in that circumstance, you’ve just got to let them race and do this, fight it out between themselves.”

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing 1 per month or 12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2023 Singapore Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Singapore Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

47 comments on “Mercedes “could have finished first and second”, admits Wolff”

  1. Mercedes could only have finished first and second if they were like Red Bull – but they are not.

    They would have ruthlessly asked Russell to move over and give Hamilton the opportunity, because he had incredible pace and was much faster on the same tires.

    If Russell didn’t have the benefit of DRS from Lando Norris, Hamilton would have overtaken him. That’s how much faster he was in the same car.

    Of course, they could then easily reverse the positions if it didn’t work.

    But sadly, Mercedes don’t have the cutthroat attitude that Red Bull has for winning, and are more likely to dither in such situations.

    Alsoy, this is the kind of race that shows the class difference between Hamilton and Russell. Russell is like Leclerc – awesome on his day, but too prone to mistakes when under pressure.

    1. They used to, see Hungary 2017 with Valtteri. The team is a bit of a shadow of itself.

      Also doesn’t help that Lewis ended up behind by a significant margin in qualifying on a track hard to overtake.

      He would have still had to pass 2 more cars to win. He had the better pace but was it enough? We can only wonder.

    2. Lol in Russia 2017 they literally asked valtteri to not win and let Lewis by, despite the fact that the championship was basically sealed

      Come on

      1. That’s 2018, bottas won 2017.

      2. And hamilton was very fair in hungary 2017 giving back the place despite being behind the championship.

      3. Sealed… please get your facts right and stop talking gibberish
        Bottas won in Russia 2017
        Russia 2018, Lewis was only 40 points ahead of Vettel with 5 races to go (Japan, US, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi), Lewis sealed the title in Mexico.
        Russia gave Lewis an extra 10 points

    3. When did RB ask Perez to let Max by this year?

      1. No need to only view this year. Perez is the number 2 driver at RBR since he got there. He will be forced to drive for Max whenever necessary. History is enough of a proof for that. Exact opposite to Merc.

        Their third driver is Tsunoda. Only Lawson seems in need of further briefing. Kicking Verstappen out of the qualy was quite funny.

  2. Russell should never have given up track position in P2. Hamilton, who was quicker in the race as Mercedes knew, could have pitted, moved up to P3 and still have had time to pass Russell (quickly via team orders) and take on Sainz. But that’s a Mercedes no-no. So they let Russell try the same. As Wolff said, he had one chance, when he first caught Norris, and then it was gone. Mercedes would have had to swap their drivers instantly for Hamilton to have any chance to pass Norris and then Sainz. When they let Russell sit behind Norris, it was obviously all over (bar the wall visit).

    1. Agree.
      Mercedes should have banked Russel’s P2 and just stopped Hamilton.
      Hamilton would easily have passed Norris with Russel’s help.
      Then, Mercedes could have decided whether they wanted to finish P2, P3, or P1, P3.
      Mercedes were very fair and threw away the win. They will never beat Verstappen Bull that way.

    2. I agree. Splitting strategies would’ve been the right choice. If Russell had held P2, then Sainz couldn’t have played DRS train tricks.

      As hard as it is to believe, Ferrari was the team that nailed strategy and co-operation this weekend.

    3. Wolff says they were going for a 1-2. If they’d split the strategies, the best they’d have got was a 1-3, and that’s assuming Hamilton would have found passing Norris and Sainz easier than Russell did (albeit the lack of a DRS train might have made things slightly easier).

      But really, hindsight is 20-20. The call Mercedes made looked like the right one, right up until they got to the back of Norris. Given the ease with which they’d got past the Red Bulls earlier in the race, and then Leclerc, there was no reason to suppose that passing the leaders would have been particularly difficult given the tyre advantage they had.

      And who knows, Hamilton might have had an unfortunate case of understeer while attempting a pass again…

      1. Had to have your little dig right at the end of a sensible comment. Name me one driver who in their career have never collided with another while attempting an overtake? Lewis is human and not immune to this. He makes a mistake now and again so what everyone does.

        1. Name me one driver who in their career have never collided with another while attempting an overtake?

          In Toto mode, I expected that to be only a Wikipedia record, but apparently that one isn’t even interesting enough for Wikipedia :)

      2. They would have got a 1-2

        Lewis passes Norris

        Russell lets Lewis pass

        Lewis passes Sainz

        Sainz goes on the dirty path while defending, this gives Russell the chance

        1. LOL – Russell would have just stared at that open door and not taken it. 1st & 3rd as the more likely scenario but Mercedes didn’t want to hurt Russell’s ego. Well, look at his ego now.

      3. I completely agreed. Had Mercedes only pitted Hamilton, he would have pitted faster, rejoined the race sooner, caught up to Norris earlier, and had more time and more chances to overtake for 3rd. This would have left Mercedes to make a decision then, on who goes for the win. Instead, we had Russell defending 3rd from Hamilton with 4 laps to go.

        Let’s face it. Russell didn’t have a plan for overtaking either driver. He didn’t need to at the start, and didn’t have a clue throughout the course of the race. The only man with a plan was Lewis driving and adjusting his line into the corners.

        1. I forgot Russell’s overtake on Leclerc after they pitted. Russell needed a couple of laps, whereas Hamilton just got the job done as soon as he came upon Leclerc. This says it all.

      4. Verstappen deserved what he got, if you are stupid enough to willingly steer into another car! Wether it understeered or not is irrilevant.
        He’s is a vindictive little petulant manchild with a license to crap, shit and hit issued by the FIA.

        He is going to be proud owner of the 3 most meritles wdcs in the history of F1.

        1. Are you OK Fritz?

          There is no shame on seeking help.

          Life gets better when you avoid being toxic.

  3. This exemplifies the issue of having a superb teammate for Lewis like Russell.

    If Lewis had a teammate who was behind him like Max does, he would have been racing yesterday for the win for Mercedes and he has 15 years more experience to fall back on in this situation. Sure, Norris and Sainz working together may have done the same as Perez and Ocon to Alonso and blocked Hamilton’s path, but I suspect Norris would have been thinking of a potential victory there, not just coasting to P2 once Lewis got in the mix and everything was up for grabs.

    The chances to win races last season and this season are few and far between and it seems that every time Lewis is in position to go for a win, it’s going to be a lot tougher as Mercedes is now racing 2 cars.

  4. According to Wolff they could’ve won 5 races this year already.
    This is probably the only time that it is true as Red Bull was out of the picture, and only because of that.

  5. To be honest we haven’t seen the Ferrari pace since they were managing the entire race. Hopefully it is PR talk, otherwise their strategic insights could see some improvement.

  6. “We’ve been really strong here,” he said. “We could have won the race.”

    They should have won this race
    They had the fastest car by far but we’re beaten by brainpower.
    And do not forget, the way Hamilton pushed Russell into an error cost the team dearly.
    A very disappointing race for Mercedes and it’s not sure if there will be a lot of possibilities remaining…

    After

    1. Ham pushed Russell into the error, yeah. lol.

      1. Ham pushed Russell into the error, yeah. lol.

        After closing the gap rapidly (more so than Russell):
        Hamilton to pit: “George needs to pick up the pace a bit”

        wait a lap or two:
        Russell: “Nooooo”, bleep etc.

        What would you like to see? a physical contact?

        I think the intention was to hint to the team that George should allow him through, I don’t think George pranging the barrier heavier than Lando was in the plan.
        Would it have worked out for a pass on Lando?
        Who knows. George didn’t make faster moves on Lando, did keep Lewis back, did prang the barrier. Mercedes lost 12 points.

        1. Was Hamilton radio message transmitted to Russell, or was Russell using the force?

        2. Russell could have let Lewis past, when he catched up. Anyways the mistake was solely on Russell. Its simply stupid to blame Hamilton, just cause one doesnt like him.

          1. +1 Thats a good word stupid for it!

    2. Osnola its easier if you just say ” I dont like Lewis” And write why, like ” I Osnola think he is to dark” it does’nt have to be that! (But most likely).

      It saves time for everyone. Instead of pretending engaging in commentary maintaining Lewis bad! Must destroy narritive while not saying aloud.

      Also saves osnola alot of time writing about hes hate for nuances of Hamiltons atributes.

      Now i must go empty my nasal cavaties.

  7. LOL, Toto says that after every racewerkend :-)

  8. Mercedes could have won 30 races in a row, and Hamilton 20 in a row, but they didn’t.
    Go home, ugly man.

    1. Yup! That sentence rolls real easy out of your mouth!

      Does’nt it.

  9. Mercedes could have been world champions this year…

  10. “Toto Wolff has admitted”
    Is Toto a Clairvoyant? The entitlement in this team is something else

  11. Hamilton and Russell were racing with no team orders so no blame to Hamilton for pressuring Russell on that last stint so he had to look forward and behind while Hamilton had no threat from behind.

    But was that a sensible position for Mercedes to be in? To sit back and watch? Would the reverse position be acceptable with Russell behind Hamilton and pressuring him while Hamilton tried to pass another car?

    That last phase was a mess from Merc. They were going for a win so it would be logical to have told Hamilton to back off and let his teammate get on with it or tell Russell to let him through. Sitting on their hands in the pits seems the worst of all worlds.

    1. Russell didnt seem to have a chance of overtaking. He should have been a teamplayer and let Lewis past, when he catched up.

      1. Russell was saving his tires untill he reached Norris. Lewis cooked them and was unable to attack Norris and only pushed George into an error.
        Bad day at the office…

        1. You’re really embarassing yourself with your takes mate. Completely delusional.
          As i said on other thread and you ignored, Russell crashed on the last lap at turn 10.

          Hamilton had 9 corners to attack Norris to the finish line and you’re criticizing him not to attack Norris when Russell had 4 or 5 laps to do so and didn’t either.

        2. incorrect, lewis tyres were in a better state than george even martin brundle commented on it,

        3. you seem very blinded by your bias. just cause Lewis beat your idol in his rookie season?

        4. Nope! Thats not it osnola!

          Dammit! Now i need more tissues.

        5. Live like lion, die like a lion. George was gonna George.

          Anyone wanna join the Osnola fake pittyparty while the main objective is to shit on Ham.

          If so donate 1 cent to mucus@osnola.shyte

  12. Torger Christian, maybe with a pair of competent drivers Merc could have got 1-2. But that’s what you got…

    1. usual stupidity from your side

  13. If you could have, you would have Toto.
    But you didn’t.
    Same as you haven’t done much at all in in the first new car designed under your ‘leadership’.
    You skated by for years on the legacy design you inherited from Ross under the previous regs, & the dodgy engine advantage you manipulated. Now your car is nowhere, especially considering the resources at your disposal.
    Sit down. We don’t need to hear your politics anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.