Wolff admits wanting to ‘punch himself on the nose’ after Mercedes double DNF on ‘brutal’ day in Australia

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 24: Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff walks in the Paddock

Toto Wolff was left struggling to see the positives after both Mercedes drivers retired from the Australian Grand Prix, with the team boss admitting that the outfit’s continued problems have left him wanting to “punch himself on the nose”.

The squad endured a challenging weekend at the Albert Park Circuit which culminated in a disastrous outcome on race day, where Lewis Hamilton recorded a DNF following a mechanical issue on Lap 17.

READ MORE: ‘It’s tough on the spirit’ – Hamilton brands 2024 the ‘worst start’ to an F1 season he's ever had

George Russell later crashed out of the running on the penultimate lap as he tried to chase Fernando Alonso for P6, with Alonso subsequently being handed a 20-second penalty for “potentially dangerous” driving in the moments before the accident.

With this coming as part of another difficult start to the season for the team, Wolff conceded that the situation was “tough to take, super tough”.

“I would be lying if I would say at any moment I feel positive about the situation and optimistic," he continued. "But you just need to overcome the negative thoughts and say 'we will turn this around'. Today it feels very, very brutal.”

2024 Australian Grand Prix: Engine failure causes DNF for Hamilton in Melbourne

While Mercedes have endured a tough two years in the sport since the introduction of ground effect regulations in 2022, the Brackley-based squad appeared more optimistic prior to 2024 after opting to change the concept of the car.

However, after finishing in second place in last year’s constructors’ standings, the team now seem to have slipped further back in their bid to close the gap to Red Bull – Mercedes P4 in the constructors’ standings currently, a full 71 points behind Red Bull after three races.

EXPLAINED: He made no contact with Russell – so why did Alonso cop a 20-second penalty for his part in the crash?

“We started this season in the belief that this car is better than it was last year,” said Wolff. “Then you look at last year [in Australia] where [Charles] Leclerc crashed out and [Carlos] Sainz was fourth but relegated to outside of the top 10 because of the penalty, but on the road he was fourth.

“McLaren was 17th, 18th, 19th, and [now] they are 40 seconds ahead of us. Obviously, on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose. On the other side, it is also a testimony that when you get things right, you can turn it around pretty quickly and we’ve just got to continue to believe.

“But at the moment, it's a very tough time.”

2024 Australian Grand Prix: Big crash for Russell on the last lap at Albert Park

Wolff believes that the issue for the team is around understanding their car rather than organisational, meaning that he continues to believe he is the right person for the role of Team Principal.

“As a co-owner of this business, I need to make sure that my contribution is positive and creative,” Wolff explained. “So I would be the first one to say, if somebody has a better idea, tell me, because I'm interested to turn this team around as quickly as possible. And I'll happily give my input and see what that would be or who that could be.

READ MORE: Russell and Alonso offer opposing views on incident that led to crash in Australian Grand Prix

“We have a physics problem, not a philosophical or organisational problem, because we haven't swallowed a dumb pill since 2021. It's just we don't understand some of the behaviours of the car, that in the past we would have always understood.

“I look myself in the mirror every single day about everything I do, and if I believe that I should ask the manager question or the trainer question, I think it's a fair question, but it's not what I feel at the moment that I should do.”

Despite the problems, Wolff has praised the drivers for being “super”, with Hamilton hailed as being “as good as he can be” and Russell labelled a “fighter”. The Team Principal concluded of Mercedes’ continued struggles on track: “We’ve got to sort this out.”


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