Wolff 'doesn't resent' customer team McLaren's success

Oscar Piastri (AUS) McLaren MCL38 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 battle for position. 09.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images
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Away from Red Bull's ongoing domination of F1, two stories have dominated 2024 to date: the rise of McLaren to race-winning status and the ongoing slump of Mercedes - putting Toto Wolff right in the middle as Mercedes principal.

While he's trying to get Mercedes back on the right track to winning races, he has been watching on as the customer engine they sell to McLaren powers the papaya squad to victory in Miami and a close second in Imola.

That means it's not the power unit holding Mercedes back. But why are McLaren able to maximise its potential while Mercedes continue to falter? Whatever the answer, Wolff insists he doesn't begrudge McLaren its current success.

“First of all, why I love this sport is the stopwatch never lies and they have done a good job,” Wolff told RACER magazine this week. "We have to have respect from how they have done things.

"More competition at the front is good at the sport and good for everyone," he continued. “I’m not looking at that with envy, quite the contrary.

"I’m looking at that and saying this is what we need to achieve, because they’ve been able to do that," he added. "At the end of the day it’s just good engineering.

"You have to put one step after the other," he pointed out. "They changed the concept late in the winter with their car I believe, and bided their time and brought an upgrade and since then they have added performance.

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director.
19.04.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Sprint Qualifying Day.
- www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

He said Mercedes were following a similar path: “This is where we are trying to get to to a stable platform - ‘okay, this is what we want from the car’ - and then the development machine just runs with it."

Wolff admitted that they had lost ground on their rivals by being indecisive over some of the key design decisions surrounding the car since the most recent change in regulations in 2022.

"One thing in F1 you can’t buy is time: once you’ve got it wrong you’re on the back foot and it’s very difficult to leapfrog.”

"We have been zig-zagging a little bit of where we thought we needed to have the performance," he said. "There have been these false dawns, absolutely.

But it is possible, as McLaren's rapid rise over the last year has demonstrated. They started 2023 in a poor state with points in only three of the first seven races but went on to transform their fortunes over the following months.

"I think it’s a fantastic recovery story, when you look at where McLaren was 12 months ago, I think they barely got out of Q1 and now they’re fighting square and fair for race victories," Wolff acknowledged.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 on the grid. 24.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"The recovery they made from what I said a backmarker to a front runner in less than 12 months, basically July to April, that’s something we are looking at and saying it is possible with the right steps.

Although the McLaren uses the same engine as Mercedes there are clearly major differences between the MCL38 and the W15. “The car’s not only fast but also very good on the tyres," Wolff pointed out. “For us we see the engine, and the engine is good on the tyres as well.

He added that Mercedes target remained "to make a car that is at the end of that front pack to hopefully make a step forward.

"We are on a trajectory where we are making the car better," he insisted, adding that it would never be a simple straight line. "It will go up [and down] like this but as long as the direction is correct, I feel more confident now.

“I think there is a fundamental thing that we haven't spotted what we should have," he added, suggesting that the way forward was becoming clearer now.

"We never had such clear indications like we have had in the last few races where we really saw the car was either going fast in the higher-speed or lower-speed, but never both together.

"That is something we are able now to slowly dial out," he said. “But having said that, nothing in this sport is for granted. We are where we are, it is not good enough.

"You can hear it in my voice, I am angry. We have just got to do a better job."

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