Wolff calls Mercedes’ Baku performance ‘unacceptable’ as he says team in toughest ever period
A rollercoaster of a weekend for Toto Wolff’s Mercedes squad saw them end the Azerbaijan Grand Prix with no points, with Valtteri Bottas finishing P12 and Lewis Hamilton P15 – having been close to taking victory before a late-race error. And Team Principal Wolff described himself as “so angry”, as the Silver Arrows' points-scoring streak stretching back to the 2018 British Grand Prix came to an end after an “unacceptable” drop off in performance from the team.
After a generally off-key weekend, Bottas was unable to find any pace in his Mercedes W12 on race day, the Finn actually falling from P10 on the grid to finish 12th at the flag.
Hamilton, however, had produced a shock turnaround to Mercedes’ Friday pace woes in qualifying, ending up P2, while at the Lap 50 race restart – following Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s retirement from the lead and subsequent red flag – Hamilton again lined up on second on the grid, behind Sergio Perez.
But hitting a button that shifted his brake balance at the standing start saw Hamilton plough on at Turn 1 after initially getting a better getaway than Perez, leaving him to finish 15th and cap Mercedes’ horror day.
“I'm so angry,” said Wolff. “[But] have no doubt. This is a team that is so strong… that we’re going to transform the anger into a positive force. We're warriors and we're going to come back.
“[What Lewis did] can’t be called a mistake,” added Wolff, referring to Hamilton’s unfortunate Turn 1 incident. “It was just when Sergio came over… he touched a button and the brake balance changed, the brake balance went all the way forward and then obviously the car doesn't stop.”
Mercedes had found themselves over a second off the pace after Free Practice 2 at Baku, with the team ultimately pulling off a coup by managing to get both Hamilton and Bottas into Q3, and with Hamilton then running at the front for the majority of the race after starting second. But despite that, Wolff said that Mercedes’ performance, both in Baku and at Monaco two weeks ago, had been “unacceptable”.
“In Monaco and here, we didn't have a car that was competitive, full stop,” said Wolff, whose team have scored just seven points in the past two Grands Prix. “[In Baku, we had] a car that was almost all sessions nowhere.
“To be honest, cruising in third and trying to make it was okay, but it's just not acceptable that we're not getting the car into a performance [window] at the start or after the pit stops – we're losing seconds over seconds to get the car in a happy window where it functions. It just takes too long.”
Asked, meanwhile, whether these had been the hardest weeks that he’d experienced as Mercedes Team Principal, Wolff replied: “Yes, they're the toughest… We must bring our A-game to fight for this championship, and our car was not there all weekend. Operationally we just need to perform faultlessly and all of us haven't done that the last two weekends.
“It just feels painful,” he added. “You can say we had the hand almost close to the trophy because Max didn't score, but I don't know – the emotion of frustration is just so overwhelming at the moment.”
Red Bull’s 25 points for Perez’s win saw them stretch their lead over Mercedes to 26 points in the constructors’ standings – although with drivers’ championship leader Verstappen and Hamilton both failing to score in Baku, the four-point gap remains intact in their title fight.