Toto Wolff: Lewis wants only one thing – a fair fight

Last year, Mercedes won the eighth Constructors’ Championship in a row, but lost the title in the individual competition. Team leader Toto Wolff told how they coped with the defeat, and what he expects from the new season.

Q: You are probably very disappointed that you lost the title in the season finale?
Toto Wolff: Yes. Lewis and I and the whole team are disappointed. We love this sport for its honesty. The stopwatch never lies, but if you violate the fundamental principle of honesty, and no longer attach importance to the data of the stopwatch, then there are doubts in the sport. The feeling that you have been deprived of everything that you have achieved with sweat and blood.

It will take us a long time to come to terms with this. I doubt that we will ever get used to this idea, and first of all it concerns Lewis. At least together with the FIA ​​we can try to work better in the future.

Question: What conclusions did you draw?
Toto Wolff: I’m waiting for not just words, but actions. Formula 1 is a sport and we can’t be so free with the rules. Before the start of the new season, the rules need to be cleared up so that every rider, team and fan knows what is allowed and what is not. After all, racing is fun, but no decision should break the rules for the sake of entertainment.

Question: Do you consider the season successful, despite the title of Max Verstappen?
Toto Wolff: If you lost, then this is not a success story. However, during the season we worked effectively and were able to bounce back. After the disqualification in Brazil, I thought that the victory in the individual competition is not achievable, but in Abu Dhabi we started with the same number of points.

Q: The Red Bull Racing modified the car much longer than Mercedes, but in the second half of the season your car was still better. How is this possible?
Toto Wolff: We better understood the behavior of the machine. Our settings were more efficient and the tires wore out less. This is evident from the results.

Question: At what point did the engineers better understand the behavior of the car?
Toto WolffA: In Austin, where we went wrong, and then in Brazil.

Q: At the beginning of the season, the car lacked downforce, and you blamed changes in the regulations for this. Why didn’t the team put more effort into responding to these changes?
Toto Wolff: We thought that the design of the bottom near the rear wheels would solve the problem. It seemed to us that we would be able to compensate for the loss of speed – we considered this a kind of challenge. It turned out that we were wrong. During the tests, we saw how far behind – by a second.

Question: Mercedes hid what they spent the conditional point on in their work with the W12. Isn’t it time to lift the veil of secrecy?
Toto Wolff: We have not spent the conditional score. We wanted to build a new nose cone, but due to budget constraints, we invested in another area.

Q: Why did Mercedes suddenly have engine problems in the second half of the season?
Toto Wolff: We didn’t lose the title because of the engine, but we really had problems for the first time in eight years. At first, it was a manufacturing defect in one part, which caused a chain reaction that caused the engine to lose more power over a period of time than before.

Q: Is Hamilton’s fight against Verstappen the same as Alain Prost’s fight against Ayrton Senna?
Toto WolffA: No, they are completely different. Max is unusually fast, but he still lacks experience. Lewis is at his peak right now. They both play in their own league. In some cases, they were ahead of other rivals by 40-45 seconds.

Q: Is Red Bull Racing not as competitive as Ferrari?
Toto Wolff: Ferrari had an advantage in engine power. In 2018, we knew that we could get ahead of them if we closed the gap on the straights. In addition, Ferrari were more likely to make mistakes. In the case of Red Bull Racing, it was an open fight – we fought like two boxers who took turns delivering punches.

Question: What distinguishes Red Bull Racing from Mercedes?
Toto Wolff: It’s hard for me to judge how the Red Bull Racing team works. Our strength lies in our approach to work and the values ​​we uphold. We may be able to resolve issues faster and better because we are always trying to figure out what went wrong.

Q: Now in Formula 1 heyday. How is this possible in the midst of a global crisis?
Toto Wolff: Last year it became obvious that we were attracting a younger audience. This is a separate group of fans. In fact, we can talk about a generational change. Thanks to Netflix, the sport has been given a new dimension: racing drivers have become interesting to people who were not interested in sports before. This opened up a new target audience for us.

Question: What role did the duel between the two leaders play in this?
Toto Wolff: He also increased interest in sports, which benefited Formula 1.

Question: Are you not afraid that one of the teams will more effectively interpret the new regulations and get ahead of the rest?
Toto Wolff: I believe that budgetary restrictions will level the playing field. If someone finds a loophole in the regulations and tries to create a gap, everyone will be able to react. The cars will be very similar. In the first year, differences are still possible, but then the situation will even out. It will not work out such that one team will be ahead of the rest by a second.

Question: In 2021, Red Bull Racing worked on the car longer than its rivals. Could this give Mercedes an advantage?
Toto Wolff: We thought so last year. Then the regulations changed, and we lost the advantage. Now work with new machines is so active that it is impossible to predict which of the teams will do better and act smarter.

Q: At first, the leading teams were against spending cuts. How do you feel about this idea now?
Toto Wolff: Of course, teams with more resources did not like that they lost this advantage. At one time, this gave rise to an arms race between us, Red Bull Racing and Ferrari, and now everything will be more balanced. I think that in the future five or six teams will be able to win, which is good for the sport. There will be no dominance of one team.

Question: How much is the Mercedes team in Formula 1 now, and what will its value be in five years?
Toto Wolff: I don’t want to give numbers, but it seems to me that we are approaching the cost of American NBA and NFL teams. In Formula 1, a limited number of licenses is only 10. And a new team can only appear with the consent of the others. We have a high entry fee of $200 million. It is important for us that not only Mercedes, but also the rest of the teams are profitable. I think the next two positions are occupied by Ferrari and McLaren. This increases the credibility of the entire championship.

The advantage of budget constraints is that every newcomer knows what to expect. He understands that no one can spend more than $140 or $145 million. In this way, he will be able to fight with rivals, because the rest have the same opportunities. Previously, no one knew how much money it would take to fight Ferrari, Red Bull Racing or Mercedes.

Q: Isn’t 12 teams better than 10?
Toto Wolff: I like that we have 10 teams. If there were more, it would only take money away from the rest.

Question: However, there are more good riders who would be of interest to some markets than there are empty seats in ten teams. Aren’t you sacrificing something important?
Toto Wolff: Fair point, but which team deserves to compete in the championship league in motorsport? If an automaker appears, we will definitely need to discuss it, but so far we have not been approached by worthy candidates.

Q: After a year of playing on a tight budget, what was the hardest thing to cut for a big team like Mercedes?
Toto Wolff: We had to carry out a restructuring, which affected not only people, but also the main processes – it was necessary to correct them.

Q: In what specific area did you have to cut costs the most?
Toto Wolff: There is no such thing that one factor played a decisive role. We have dealt with all aspects, trying to minimize the loss in efficiency.

Q: Did you ever think that if you were allowed to spend the same amount of money as before, you would do this or that differently?
Toto Wolff: Certainly. For example, we would build a new chassis or homologate a new rear end of the car. We would be more involved in the car.

Question: Formula 1 has been working on a new regulation for engines for a year and a half, which will come into force in 2026. Why does it take four years to create a new engine?
Toto Wolff: The automaker needs a lot of time to work. It will be a completely new synthetic fuel power plant, and it will take time to get it right.

Question: Are you satisfied with the key parameters of the regulation?
Toto Wolff: The main problems are solved, but we need to discuss some issues.

Question: For example, what should be the budget for minders?
Toto WolffA: $70 million. Starting from the moment when the engine is ready.

Question: The technical regulations have long been approved, and it also does not make life easier for beginners. Automakers with a long history in the sport fear competition from Audi and Porsche?
Toto Wolff: Not at all. It would be great if these two brands appeared in Formula 1! This also needs to be supported, but when developing the regulations, we wanted respect for the three current mechanics.

Question: This year you will have the “British Verstappen” – George Russell. Will it be more difficult to control the intra-team struggle?
Toto Wolff: I wish we had two extraordinarily fast riders to fight for the win. And if not, then we need these riders to get our car back on the road to victory.

Question: Will Lewis Hamilton be able to cope with a possible defeat from a young rider like Russell?
Toto Wolff: The greatness of Lewis is too often questioned. Even after the events in Abu Dhabi, he immediately congratulated Max. Lewis wants only one thing – a fair fight on the track. And we will do it.

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