Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff attended the Austrian Grand Prix Saturday Press Conference. Here is the full transcript.
Q: The F1 Commission met yesterday and various decisions were made. How pleased are you with the outcomes?
Toto WOLFF: Yeah, too little for the big teams, I guess, because energy prices, inflation, and freight are skyrocketing, but too much for the small team, so like Guenther said, nobody’s really happy and I guess that’s a good outcome.
Q: So Toto, coming to you. Silverstone, the one that got away? How do you look back?
TW: Got away? I think we are we are happy that we have a more competitive car now. We start to understand it. The drivers, I think, enjoy driving it more and things happen. We were competitive with the Medium tyre, we were catching up the Ferraris and who knows what would have happened. And then with the Safety Car restart, obviously, that was tricky at the beginning. We have a warm up issue on our tyres and that meant that Carlos was gone, out of reach, and then the little scramble I think everybody enjoyed watching.
Q: So what about this weekend? While we’re talking what ifs, what might have been possible in qualifying yesterday?
TW: At the end, you don’t know. I think we had a we had a competitive car. The lap, the last few corners that Lewis attacked were the fastest overall, I think. Would we have fought for pole position? I’m not sure, but we would have been maybe within a tenth, a tenth-and-a-half of the front runners on a circuit where our car really wasn’t happy before. So that’s improvement. And I’d rather have two cars in the wall and fighting for pole than a car that is P8 and drive steady Eddie.
Q: Two cars in the wall does mean a long night for the mechanics. How much damage was there to each car?
TW: A lot of damage. I think we have two floors, two boxes that we need to check, a rear wing, lots of little bits and pieces. Yesterday in a garage in the in the early evening it looked like really like somebody dropped a Lego car on the floor. And the mechanics are doing great work.
Q: What impact is Pete Bonnington’s absence having this weekend?
TW: Well, Bonno has been with us since the beginning. There’s only one race he missed in those 10 years that I’ve been part of Mercedes. And the funny thing is Tom was taking over, that’s the tall gentleman. Mark was running the car. But on the intercom Bonno was very much there. He’s not there physically, but the voice is there and the comments are there.
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QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (John Noble – Motorsport.com) You both say you’d like the cost cap thing to have been higher than it was, but is the extra US$4.5 million enough for you to stay below it this season or are we in a situation where towards the end of the year we get into similar debates about penalties and minor breaches?
TW: So energy prices have come back slightly. I think freight is still on a high level and inflation seems to have stabilised at an incredibly high level but at least stabilised. I think why we achieved the compromise yesterday is that it’s that we that we said to the small teams, we’re not going to come back, and saying we need some kind of negotiation with the cost cap adjudication panel. We still, I think, the three of us are very much above it that means saving costs will be necessary for Mercedes. So yeah, the outcome is helpful. Does it solve our problems? No.
TW: We spend a third of the additional gain that we have yesterday and one right after it.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) The FIA said yesterday that after the F1 Commission meeting, the TD around porpoising and grounding of the cars has been delayed to Spa. The FIA says this is to give teams time to make changes to the plank and skid assemblies. What changes do you need to make to your cars, and do you have a different interpretation to the FIA on the exact interpretation of the rules around these parts?
TW: Well, it was good, first of all, that the TDs came out. There is clearly some different interpretation on skid assemblies. That means you are low, you can run the car in the front and also stiffness of plank which will be a discussion for next year’s regulation. Obviously for us, we don’t need to change anything so we would have liked to have it as soon as possible. It can help for porpoising, which Mattia said is not a big issue for the next races that’s true but it can be a performance topic. I think, again, a compromise. It’s coming for Spa. That allows the teams that need to change, change in doubt enough time and we can live with that.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Toto, the cause of Lewis’s and George’s incidents looked quite similar yesterday: a sudden snap oversteer. Is there anything we can take from that is? Was there an air stall, was it affected by the wind? Is there a fundamental imbalance? And was that related to also the pace gains you’ve made over this weekend?
TW: I think that the car is still tricky to drive and now that we can actually fight for front positions, I’m really happy to see that they attack. And both have been carrying… Lewis, the corner, before was carrying 10kph more speed and made turn six and then he’s carried 10kph more speed into seven and didn’t make the corner. And the same a little bit for George. He saw that he was up on his delta time and that that was a particular strength of his previous runs and it went too far. So whether there was wind or any other conditions, I think the summary is the car is tricky to drive, but it’s faster now and for me that’s absolutely okay.
Q: (Adam Cooper – Motorsport.com) There’s a very strong suggestion in the paddock that the current PU manufacturers have tried to delay the 2026 rules in order to make life difficult for Audi and Porsche and it’s no secret that Porsche wanted to announce their plans this weekend. What do you say to that suggestion? And can you clarify why it’s taking so long and when are we going to see the rules?
TW: There’s not much to add to what Mattia said. On the contrary, we don’t want to delay those regulations but we want to have it in place. We have given the age which was a massive thing to accommodate the newcomers. And in any way. I think we should… it was said to us that by the end of the year, we’re going to have the confirmation that they’re joining the party. That confirmation hasn’t been given until today. I don’t know why. This is an environment where regulations will change all the time so you can’t make it regulation dependent. It’s something that we can expect from them also because we’ve made big steps towards them. And then let’s make those final steps on the regulations. It’s more the detail and it doesn’t matter. We discussed 50 dyno hours up and down for newcomers but we’d like to have them part of the show. They’ve been sitting on the table negotiating those regulations since a while but not committed yet.
Q: (Claire Cottingham – Racefans) Toto, obviously it’s quite rare for us ever to see George or Lewis crash out in qualifying and I know you’ve mentioned that some tracks are quite different and you’ve not worked out the correlation of why you’re struggling at certain places. Is that a concern coming into the race here, obviously with what happened yesterday? And also you mentioned damage; is there any real big changes, have we got a chassis change maybe for Hamilton? What’s the sort of damage there?
TW: Yeah, first of all it’s very rare that you see both drivers crashing out and especially the circumstances. They looked like – I don’t know how you call it an English – synchronised swimmers so that was a good choreography. But the car is still tricky and Austria, these corners are on a knife’s edge to carry a lot of speed. So as I said before, I’d rather have a quick car and end up in the wall and more learning. On the damage, yeah, the cars pretty injured. Both cars are pretty injured: floors. We have precautionary checks or changes for the gearboxes, a rear wing for George, plenty of parts that has cost cap implications but the biggest is the mechanics have to work around the clock, so we hope we can we have a good car for the sprint race to put us in a good position for tomorrow.
Q: (Bartosz Pokrzywiński– Parcfer.me) Mattia, considering the current championship situation, the win of Carlos at Silverstone, considering that Mercedes are getting faster and faster and Red Bulls are also fast, how will Ferrari team approach two drivers will change after the last situation at Silverstone?
Mattia BINOTTO: As first what we are trying to do each single race is try to maximise the team points, because obviously there is too close two championships which are the constructors and the drivers so by maximising the team points when I’m pretty sure that we are as well maximising the drivers’ opportunity by taking off points to the opponents and the opponents should not be Charles for Carlos and Carlos for Charles, but certainly Max, Lewis and the others. So that’s the way we see it: the fastest car on track is the one which is prioritized, and we believe by doing so certainly at the moment at this time of the championship, it’s the best things we can do and if later in the championship there will be one of the two drivers that got most of the opportunities, certainly when we will try to give him full priority but it’s not the situation right now. So we need to cope with it and but still, I’m pretty happy to see those two drivers fighting. I know that when there are team orders, everybody’s blaming us because we should have a free fight and when got the free fight, then you should have team orders so whatever you’re doing is always wrong. And I remember 20 years ago here in Austria, I have heard the booing from the grandstands because I was here. So, again, I think it’s always delicate and each single person after the race knows how we should deal with the situations. But once again, what we are trying to do is maximise the team points, which I’m pretty sure is the right choice.
TW: Welcome to the club.
Q: (Scott Mitchell – The Race) Michael Andretti continues to be quite frustrated by the lack of support he finds in the F1 paddock about his desire to have an F1 team. In a recently published interview, he described the attitude of the teams that are here as snobbish, it’s still a European club, and that you see his organisation as a threat. Do you understand his feelings of frustration? Or are these not particularly constructive comments from someone who’s trying to gain favour within the F1 paddock?
Guenther STEINER: I don’t know what he’s trying to achieve with these comments but that’s down to Michael. It’s not really our decision to give him a licence or not, you know. We have got an opinion but I don’t think we can decide that one. So we don’t know what he presented or I don’t know why – I shouldn’t speak for other people – I don’t know what he presented to FIA and FOM so I have no idea. Obviously, in my opinion, these comments, they’re not constructive, or, you know, taking forward but you live by your choices.
TW: Very good comments from Guenther. I spoke to Mario twice on the phone and that was very nice.
Q: (Matt Kew – Autosport) Toto but I’d like it if the others could pitch in after. Max was widely booed at Silverstone but I suppose that’s perhaps a bit different to your driver getting cheered when he crashed so what’s your comment on the fans’ reaction to that and again the wider sentiment of fans cheering pretty sizable shunts?
TW: Well, both is not very sportsmanlike. I think a driver that crashes out and ends up in the barrier, if that is being applauded a lot you should criticise or should question the attitude and understanding of any sport. The booing is not good either. I think we, as teams, we fight. We are not happy when we lose but the booing is a personal attack on the driver and fans should just put themselves in the position and that they are standing up there and there are being booed and I think that’s not right for the driver, that Christian was being booed in Silverstone. I don’t think that’s right, either. So hopefully we can talk sense. We love the fans, we want them to be there, we want them to be emotional and passionate, but maybe when it gets personal that shouldn’t happen
Q: Toto: This is your home race. How did the fans react to you personally?
TW: Well, I haven’t been out yet there. Let’s see what happens to me here.
Q: (Aaron Decker – Racing News 365) Mattia and Toto: Haas is performing very well, we are doing mid-season now, they haven’t brought any updates and they performing still very well. How positively surprised are you with that?
TW: I think they brought updates but they’re not saying it, right?
GS: No, we have no money, Toto, I told you.
MB: I was asking if they brought… honestly updates I don’t know, but I think showing that… As first, I think that some teams, top teams brought some upgrades but sometimes what you’re doing is really small details because there is not much you can do and those cars are quite prescriptive and there is not much you can do after the first… You’ve decided the layout of the car and you decided the first project so it’s great for them that it’s still doing well. I see it’s about maximise always the potential of the car at each single race. Maybe those last two races are adapting better to their car, I don’t know, but on our side as well we didn’t brought much development the season so far and we are trying to keep up the pace and we are still fighting for the pole which is great so showing that if we can do it they can do it as well.
TW: Yeah, it’s great that Guenther’s gang can be competitive out there. We’ve seen it in the last few races they were right up there and we certainly had them on the radar to compete with us and that’s fun. Not bringing any update, it shows that if you put the car in a happy spot setup-wise, this is where you can unlock a lot of potential rather than adding a tenth or two in aerodynamic downforce. That doesn’t translate always in lap time. So they have done a great job yesterday.