Toto Wolff at the 2021 Russian GP Friday Press Conference

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff attended the Russian Grand Prix Friday Press Conference. Here is the transcript.

Q: Toto, can we start please by talking about Monza as well. Having had time to reflect on what happened at that race between Lewis and Max, do you still view it as a tactical foul by Max?

Toto WOLFF: You know the point is that these two are racing for a Drivers’ Championship and you can’t expect them to have velvet gloves on. That’s why we are going to see harsh moments like this, I believe. Obviously I’m biased, and I’m looking at the whole race, how it’s panned-out. Sometimes you just need to bail out. This is what Lewis did on lap one. Could Max have done it? Probably he would have lost the position. I think it’s very difficult and dangerous, you comment with the bias that you have, obviously cheering for your driver and your team. These two know what they do, they have it under control, and I guess we had a good chance to chase the McLarens, that were there on merit – absolutely agree – and score a bit more points.

Q: You say they’ve got it under control – but do they? Do you expect them to have collisions going forward? What can we say on that?

TW: No, I think they pretty much know what they do. If both wanted to avoid collisions, we would have less collisions. If they don’t avoid collisions because they feel it’s right to not bail-out or not give room then we will have more. We are not sitting in the cars.

Q: Toto, do you see any change in Lewis in the way he’s fighting this championship?

TW: No, they are both of them, throughout their career, have been racing at the very front of every single karting and junior series championship, and as always, there is an angle that people don’t get to see and that’s the focus, the concentration, the amount of work that he puts into the sport. He has been an instrumental part, as has Valtteri, in developing the car. They spent many days in preparation in the simulator now and no change. Actually, very upbeat, positive mood, enjoying the battle.

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Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing Lines) Spa saw the introduction of the FIA TD regarding pit stops and three races later we have a situation where two of you are put onto a collision course as a result of pit stops, and the third one won the race, arguably as a result of the pit stop. Any comments about the TD now in retrospect please?

TW: Yeah, it’s a procedural situation or process that, if you have done something all through these years in the same way and then in a way you need to change, that can always be a bit tricky – but it wasn’t disastrous, we have mitigation in place and that was the mitigation that helped us not to lose too much time. But it’s a new challenge

Q: (Jonathan McEvoy – The Daily Mail) Sir Jackie Stewart said after the race at Monza that Max is the fastest man on the grid but he has some growing up to do. Is he right on either count?

Christian HORNER: Of course I always respect Sir Jackie’s opinion but I think Max has shown great maturity this year and, of course, you’re always evolving, always learning and I’m sure Sir Jackie made a few mistakes in his time. So that’s the journey of life. I think you learn from every experience and I think when you see the progression from a 17 year-old, when he came into Formula 1, to the driver he is today, it’s pretty impressive.

Q: Do you think he’s the fastest man on the grid, as Sir Jackie suggested?

CH: It’s always going to be subjective and open to debate. I’m just glad he’s driving our car.


TW: For me also I’d like to echo what Christian said. Obviously Max isn’t driving for Mercedes so I don’t know him really well but his trajectory is impressive – not only the speed but also the way he tackles the weekends, so overall, he’s not at the end of his career, there’s more to come and part of that is the learning process.

Q: (Andrew Benson – BBC) This is for Christian, although I’d also like Toto’s comments at the end please. Christian, if we look back over the incidents between Max and Lewis over the season, whether they’ve collided with each other or not, the characteristics have been that there have been some that Lewis has backed-out of when he’s felt that Max has won the corner, and it was better to fight another day, and none that Max has backed out of. Do you think that Max needs to… have you ever discussed with Max whether he needs to sometimes think about backing out of incidents where he’s playing the percentages? And, if you haven’t, do you think you should?

CH: Of course we always review any incident and look at it very carefully, and you always think, OK, could I have done anything different, could I have done anything better? I think that Max is always very open to that. He’s extremely self-critical. You’re always learning – but he’s a hard racer, it’s part of his characteristic, it’s part of why he has the following that he does. You know that when he’s in the car, he’s going to give 110 per cent. I think that also has the impact on the driver that he’s racing, because they just know he’s going to go for it – but of course, there has to be measure, and I think at the right times he has shown that measure in different races even that we’ve seen this year. But, it’s part of the character that he is, that he’s an attacking driver. It’s part of his make-up and I don’t think that’s going to change.

TW: Yes, they also race each other very close now which wasn’t the case in the past and we are discussing these things in detail as well and I think the change of approach is that Lewis decided not to bail out anymore when he thinks that the corner is his. And now it needs two to tango, it needs two to understand each other on track when a collision can be avoided, but like Christian said, they are in the cars, we have no influence on the driving, they will know much better than we how the other one is racing yourself. It’s interesting to watch.

Q: In your opinion, how much respect does each have for the other?

TW: I think the very good ones recognise the other very good ones, and therefore from a driving standpoint, there will be a lot of respect with each-other, like with some others on track. The personalities are very different, the lives are very different – but that has no interference on the respect of the ability of the other guy in the car.

Q: (Christian Nimmervoll – Cyril Abiteboul a couple of years ago, I remember him calling for a 16-race calendar, because his logic was when you look tired and you are tired you can’t communicate a positive message for F1 into the world, and he also said the individual price of grands prix, the promoter fee, may even rise because of more exclusivity. Now it seems like we are getting a 23 race calendar with more triple headers so what’s your stance on that?

TW: I think we have the best man in charge to balance between income and workload, with Stefano. On the other side he has been running a team and he knows the strain on the people and that strain is enormous, particularly on the mechanics that need to be there much earlier, take the garage down, not always travel as comfortably as all of us and that needs to be taken into consideration. We have a rotational scheme in there to take some of the pressure off, but I believe that maybe we can come up with some innovative thinking and make rotation mandatory if it is within what we can afford. We have a lot of young engineers in every area that are not yet on the battlefield life, because there is a senior there who is the best in the group but maybe that’s an opportunity to actually put them in the hot seat and putting a ceiling onto the race attendance. Maybe we do it at 20 races and there are three races where you need to bring someone else. Obviously the detail lies in the devil (sic). But similarly what I’ve said before on young drivers that could be an attempt to reduce the strain, particularly on the mechanics, all the people that work in logistics and the engineers.

Q: (Christian Menath – Another question about the famous technical directive on pit stops for Toto and Christian please. After the problems you experienced in Italy two weeks ago, what did you change in between? Did you have to adapt your systems and procedures or is it, as Christian said, just a human error and you just have to do more practice?

TW: You have to look at the whole process. There is no such thing as a human error. There is this thing in how the process is designed, how the equipment is calibrated. So, that is what we need to look at, and we need to give the best possible wheel gun and the best possible process to the mechanics so they can operate in a safe way to avoid longer pit stops but equally be fast enough and that balance has always been tricky for all teams in Formula 1, ever.

Q: (Andrea Cremonesi – Gazzetta dello Sport) Do you agree that you are going to reserve some free practice for young drivers next year? Toto, have we defined a young driver for that role yet?

TW: You mustn’t have any grand prix experience in that sense, so like Andreas said we need to give young drivers the opportunity to have a little bit more stress during the race weekend, have a comparison against the other guy in the garage, work with the team, and I very much welcome the regulations for next year.


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