MARCH 19, 2023
Angry Wolff could axe Mercedes engineers
Heads could roll at Mercedes after team boss Toto Wolff admitted his designers had fudged the basic 'concept' of its Formula 1 car for the second season in a row.
Former F1 team owner Eddie Jordan last week slammed Wolff for seeming to pin the blame for Mercedes' ongoing situation on the team's engineers.
"To blame or criticise anybody in his design team is actually disingenuous," Jordan said. "It's really crass.
"He's the CEO, he's the boss," he added. "The buck stops with him."
With not yet even two grands prix checked off in 2023, it is clear that Wolff's instructions about the new car have now gone out - the basic 'no sidepods' concept will be scrapped.
"I think in five, six or seven races, our car will look completely different," said the Austrian.
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher thinks the dire situation with the obvious design error could have consequences for certain team members.
"You can see from Toto Wolff's reaction," he said. "Personally, I find his clearly spoken words very good.
"He'll surely be angry for believing the engineers who were keen to stick to the car concept, which is wildly different from that of the class-leading Red Bull or Aston Martin," Schumacher added.
"Now he knows that concept was wrong, so I think there will be personnel consequences at Mercedes."
Some might think seven time world champion Lewis Hamilton might be a candidate for an ousting, given that he is delaying over a new contract and generally now outpaced by much younger teammate George Russell.
Wolff, though, defended the 38-year-old.
"Like all drivers, Lewis has ups and downs," he told Bild.
"It's a bit tough at the moment for him, but whenever he comes back, he does it mercilessly. And that is exactly what he will do."
Indeed, former F1 driver Felipe Massa tips Hamilton to ink a new contract for 2024.
"You should never make the mistake of writing Lewis off," said the Brazilian. "Next to Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna, he is the best driver who has ever driven in Formula 1.
"Lewis can become world champion again, but he needs a competitive car. And he currently doesn't have that."
Wolff, meanwhile, said the fact Hamilton keeps getting out-qualified by Russell is insignificant for now.
"It doesn't really matter," he said, "because we have to take big steps in the coming races anyway."
So while Russell said he had "fun" in the W14 on Saturday, Hamilton admitted to being "a little lost".
But he again played down rumours he might be looking for a move to Ferrari for 2024.
"I love this team and I'm so grateful to everyone here for accompanying me on my journey," said Hamilton. "I'm not one to throw in the towel so easily.
"I'm not one to say ok, I've done that and now something new appeals to me. I'll be patient and do everything I can to make us stronger as a team."