Toto Wolff has been forced to come to terms with the fact that his Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team are not the dominant force they have been in recent years, with Scuderia Ferrari currently leading the way in both championships heading into this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
For the first time in 2017, neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas finished on the podium at the Monaco Grand Prix, and coupled with a 1-2 finish for Ferrari, it was a race of soul-searching for Mercedes, and for Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Wolff it was a further indication that no one can assume his team to be at the top anymore.
“Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games, so said Babe Ruth and he was right,” said Wolff. “Every season the points reset to zero and, with new regulations like we had this year, historic success doesn’t translate into current performance.
“We’ve come into this season with a strong car that has allowed us to win three of the first six races. But it has also caused us more complications than we have seen in previous years.
“I had an encounter on Sunday afternoon in Monaco with someone I really respect who asked how I felt after the defeat. I told them how much it hurt and their response was “that’s motor racing”. This is the reality of the situation now.
“We have to fight with all that we are worth for every single win, pole position, podium finish and every point. You can no longer expect that when you look at a timesheet the two Mercedes will be right at the top.”
Wolff says that Mercedes have faced adversities before in Formula 1, most notably back in 2015 when they were off-colour all weekend around the streets of Singapore, but they have always worked through their problems and come back fighting the other side, and he feels this could and should be the case this weekend in Canada.
“Everybody at the factories is working absolutely flat out to assess the current difficulties we are facing – to define our objectives, work with the data we have and then come up with the right solutions,” said Wolff. “Some of these fixes will be short term, others may take longer.
“We’ve had bruising weekends before and it’s about showing resilience and getting up after falling. I remember the troubles we had in Singapore in 2015, which hurt badly. We gave ourselves a deadline to address that setback before switching our focus to the next race in Suzuka, which we won.
“We’ve done exactly the same thing after Monaco – addressing the problems before turning our attention to Montréal. We know that this season is a marathon, not a sprint.”
Montreal has been one of Hamilton’s strongest venues since his debut back in 2007, with the Briton having taken five wins there, while Bottas secured a third place start in his rookie season in Canada back in 2013 whilst with the Williams F1 Team, and Wolff is keen to see how things play out this weekend.
“I’m expecting an interesting weekend in Canada,” said Wolff. “It could be a tricky race for us in terms of the layout of the track. But, equally, it’s a circuit that suits both of our drivers.
“Lewis has won a number of times in the past and Valtteri has always gone strongly there for Williams. It will be about doing our homework right to give the drivers the car they need to succeed.
“We have two excellent drivers and we will hold true to our philosophy of letting them race each other to drive the team forward – even if sometimes it can be difficult because you can’t always have the one who is ahead in the Championship winning.”
Wolff admits that Ferrari is currently favourites for the championship in 2017, which he says is painful to say, but there are still a good number of races to turn their own fortune around.
“It’s painful, but we are not the favourites for this year’s Championship,” said Wolff. “At the moment it’s Ferrari. They have a very strong package and we need to rise to the challenge to prove once again that we are the team to beat.
“There are still 14 races left and everything is completely open. We’re looking forward to Montréal and the chance to bounce back with a strong result – hopefully producing valuable answers to some tough questions in the process.”