Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff attended the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Saturday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.
Q: Toto, I feel we should definitely start with you. Of all the races to miss last weekend! How did you watch the Brazilian Grand Prix and were you tempted to jump on a plane, when you saw the grid for Sunday?
Toto WOLFF: I went through some interesting emotions, because I had to go to the Middle East because of a meeting and the team was great. I had this full intercom being built up, like being on the pit wall. I had all the channels that I could speak to, even the drivers, by pushing the button. And in a way, I tried to step back a little bit. And then when the race was finished, Susie said to me, ‘I bet you regret not being there’. And it was actually quite the opposite. I felt so proud of the team, and I’m taking so much spotlight in the media all the time and credit and not being there meant that it was on the team. It was Shov, who is our trackside chief engineer, and Bradley and James Vowles, and I was so proud that it was about the team and the people that represent it and not always about me. So all the feelings that I didn’t expect.
Q: Of the 115 wins you’ve had with Mercedes, where does last weekend’s rate, given all the issues you’ve had this year?
TW: You know I forget so quickly about previous wins, because I try to… I don’t know if this is a mechanism that is actually bad, because it’s difficult for me to enjoy, because I’m looking forward. But this one… This one was important, because it validated our development direction. And this is good for confidence and for the engineers to see that it’s going where we want it to go. But then on the other side, you know, ticking that box, I wouldn’t have wanted everyone to say ‘well, in retrospect, Mercedes didn’t win a race in 2022’. We did that, we were on pole in the Sprint race. Yeah, so I didn’t think that it was important, but now that it’s done, I think that’s positive for us.
Q: How competitive is the W13 now? Have you caught up and what kind of a platform do you now have for 2023?
TW: I think we are back in the mix. That was important. If you ask me the pecking order today, I would still say that Red Bull, overall, as a package is the most competitive. I think Ferrari has a tremendously quick car on a lap and on several of the weekends was also the quickest package. We have been able to perform well on the tracks that were in the sweet spot of our DNA of the car and that was mostly high downforce – Mexico and Brazil. We’re not very competitive when it’s fast, straight line, we have a little bit of a draggy car, and that did make us benefit. So the pecking order is still third, I think I can say that, but we are very close and on our day, at the right racetrack, we can win and that is most important.
Q: Is this the right racetrack? How do you rate your chances of catching and even maybe passing Ferrari for P2?
TW: So, we have this internal table of doom, which kind of forecasts whether we are good at a track or not, in terms of our simulations and Mexico was, we thought, the best track in the season and we were performing well. Brazil was right there, like with Austin, but it came in better than we thought. And Abu Dhabi in the table of doom is pretty much in the middle. It’s not Spa and Monza. So in a way, if we correlate with the table of doom it means we understand where we are going. If we outperform the table of doom, I’m obviously happy, but also questioning if we are getting it right with our forecast. So the truth is, I don’t know where we’re lacking straight line speed, particularly against the Red Bulls, when it turns on the engine. But I would never say that we are not in the mix. But let’s see. Rationally, probably not right there.
If you like SilverArrows.Net, consider supporting us by buying us a coffee!
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Toto, in Brazil, both Lewis and George made reference to a slimmer W13. Is that anything you can clarify, if there has been a lighter upgrade, apart from the clarified aero tweaks? If so, when did that come in? Where have you found the weight?
TW: Yeah, we have been… the weight was an issue, a recurring issue this season, because obviously you’re trimming it and you lose weight, but then you’re adding parts in order to recover downfalls and issues that we had so we never got back to the weight. And the same as in Brazil. I think we’ve been pretty stable over the last few races, not what we expect, where we expect to be, but certainly some lap time that we should find for next year.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans.net) Formula 1 yesterday announced they were doing an F1 Academy to get young girls and women into motorsport, and hopefully also into Formula 1. I just wondered if you thought that was the right way of going, having women starting out on their own and then reintegrating with the men later in their career, and would it be something that you guys, maybe your teams want to get involved in? Toto little side one for you, obviously, I know that your partner Susie is big on getting more women into motorsport; is it something that she might be interested in being part of?
TW: Obviously I was with Susie for the end of her career in DTM and in Formula 1, and I saw the stumbling blocks that were thrown in her way. She was very competitive. At Williams, she was being put into FP1 and was very close to the main driver but still, even with the female team principles, she wasn’t given the opportunity, although it would have been great for the sport, and probably great commercially also for the team. So it was pretty… a situation that we couldn’t understand and then she decided well, clearly there is no more obvious situation that shows that door is closed at the moment. And she’s been passionate about it, further on. She’s the founder of the Dare to be Different programme that was merged with the FIA’s Girls on Track and still very much involved in how can we get young girls into Formula 1, but it needs to start at grassroots. I think if you look at go karting for a 100 drivers there’s three girls and we’re talking about the 20 best drivers in the world. So clearly, this is where we need to start. So I think the initiative that was started by Formula 1 is very good, an important one: smaller cars, lots of testing, which is important and hopefully Formula 1 can identify young female go-karters and junior drivers, because there are some good ones in W also, that can participate there, can get lots of track time and then eventually the best ones move up into Formula 4 or Formula 3 and only if we strengthen the base, we can bring a girl, a woman into Formula 1, but she needs to be competitive. I think this is the most important. We can’t just do it for the quota because that would… a woman in Formula 1 would set back by a long time if she’s not competitive. Susie’s exploring avenues, she’s always been emotionally involved in bringing drivers up. We have a young girl, Luna Fluxa, who’s very young, who’s in go karting, she makes it to the finals in the Europeans and in the World Championships. And Susie’s looking at that, and yeah, she’s discussing with Stefano whether there’s interesting avenue to work together, but nothing is decided she’s still contemplating.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) The President said yesterday that he would be happy to investigate the Pérez qualifying crash in Monaco, if any team asked him to. Do any of you believe that that accident should be investigated, whether it’s you asking or not, but just on principle, the fact that there’s obviously potentially an issue there? And secondly, Carlos has called for penalties for drivers who score cause red flags in qualifying. Zak, I believe you’ve raised that in the commission yesterday. What are your thoughts on that? Is it practical? Could it be policed?
TW: Yeah, I agree with Zak also that this is a good idea. I think it exists in Formula E, I’m not mistaken, that your quickest lap is deleted. So that’s something that we can implement. As for the Monaco incident, we haven’t got the data. Monaco is always pretty bad in GPS. And the second thing is I would… I know Sergio for a long time. Would a driver really put his car in a wall and risk his gearbox in the way it was done? You could be going all the way to the back of the grid with such an incident. For me, if you want to park your car, you do it in a different way. And as Mattia and Zak said, we’ve had enough PR crises in the last couple of weeks around that team and I think we don’t need another one.
Q: (Abhishek Takle – Midday) Toto, we’ve heard about Daniel Ricciardo going back to Red Bull as a reserve. Another driver on the market is Mick Schumacher and he’s been linked with the reserve role at Mercedes. Will he be your reserve next year? And a separate one to Mattia? Have you decided on Mick’s position in the FDA?
TW: I’m really proud that that Nyck made it back into a real Formula 1 seat, even though he’s changing family. He deserves to be in Formula 1 and it shows also that him winning the World Championship in Formula E for us and being our reserve was right for him and was right for us. And Stoffel the same way. So they’ve flown away to be with someone else and Mick is someone that has always been close to our heart because of Michael or the whole Schumacher family. Ralf was in a DTM for a long time for us, he son races Mercedes in GTs, and he’s an intelligent, well-mannered young man. He’s been very successful in junior formulas. We believe that we can look after him if the situation were to happen and with someone that just fits the team, but we haven’t really put pen to paper, we haven’t really come anywhere close to any terms. I’m seeing it that openly because I think he just fits and now we need to make it happen, if he wants to, Sabine wants to and then we see we see where that goes to.
Q: (Dieter Rencken – Racing News 365) A two-part 2026 PU question: Toto first of all to you. The entries closed on the 15th of October. I believe your company hadn’t entered as a PU supplier. I believe it still hasn’t happened yet so if you could explain the delay, please.
TW: So there was no formal deadline. I think there is nothing in the regulations that said it needs to be the 15th of October, it was discretionary for the FIA to decide when that is. And we have entered, that has happened. And now it’s about the FIA to talk to everyone else and these discussions are progressing as far as I understand, so we are on course for 2026.