Wolff says Mercedes' Miami upgrades not ‘a ground-breaking solution’
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has given his early assessment of the team’s upgrade package that was brought to the Miami Grand Prix, saying it’s offered “clarity” regarding the Silver Arrow’s 2022 development path – but denying that it had been a “a ground-breaking solution” that would launch Mercedes into the title fight.
The eight-time constructors’ champions have struggled with porpoising and car balance in 2022, and sit third in the standings ahead of the first-ever race at Miami International Autodrome. Ahead of qualifying, Wolff was asked for his opinion on the impact the team’s upgrades – centred around the front and rear wings – have had.
“I think we brought some parts that function. The lower-drag package generally has been good to us in the past. The track surface seems to be very smooth, so our bouncing problem isn’t articulated like on some of the other tracks,” he said, “and I think we’ve just managed to chip away at lap time.
“And yesterday was good, but we need to be also honest with ourselves: it’s not like we have brought a ground-breaking solution. Probably, the circumstances favoured us yesterday. We haven’t seen Max [Verstappen] running properly, so I would express caution at this stage.”
Verstappen’s FP2 session was cut short by a hydraulics issue, while Mercedes driver Russell led the session on Friday afternoon ahead of Ferrari’s leader Charles Leclerc. Wolff however added that the upgrade package isn’t “good enough” to keep Mercedes at the top of the timesheets going forward.
“Yes, I think we have more clarity with where we need to go but I would say if we were to put our car in Imola, 10 degrees and rain, the picture would maybe have been a little bit better – but still not good enough.”
As for Russell, team boss Wolff was highly complimentary over Mercedes’ new signing – the first Mercedes junior driver to be promoted to the F1 works team – but denied he was surprised that Russell has shown form good enough to put himself fourth in the standings after four rounds of the 2022 season.
“When you look at George’s track record, winning the title in [GP3] in his rookie year and then in F2, we knew he was very good, and obviously the Williams school played its part so we were never in any doubt that he would be very good.
“You can see that it’s materialising on track. I like his approach; he’s very rational whether he’s fastest in [F]P2 or whether he’s 11th, it’s just about applying the science and trying to make the car faster.”
He added: “But at the same time, Lewis was obviously unlucky, he was stuck in a DRS train last time around [at Imola]. I enjoy seeing them working together, the level is high for both of them, and that has put us in a decent situation in the constructors’ championship, so I couldn’t wish for any better pairing.”
Mercedes enter the fifth round with a 36-point deficit to Red Bull, who haven’t had the smoothest start to the weekend. Points leaders Ferrari have also had missteps in Miami, after Carlos Sainz crashed out of FP2 on Friday.
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