Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Executive Director Toto Wolff has called this season’s double title win “the most hard fought of them all“, following the team’s World Constructors’ Championship title at the US Grand Prix and World Drivers’ Championship win at the Mexican Grand Prix.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the Silver Arrows have taken both the Constructor’s and Driver’s championships, and the second time that the Driver’s title has been decided before the last race of the season. Although the team were reigning champions coming into the season, rule and car changes for the 2017 season put an end to the team’s dominance for the first half of the season, with rivals Scuderia Ferrari taking two wins in the first three races. Ferrari then gave way to Red Bull Racing, who have found form in the latter half of the season. This, Wolff says, made it a particularly tricky season.
“This year was quite definitely the most difficult to manage.
“That was because Ferrari raised the bar, and then Red Bull came into the game as well. As a team, you are always in a more comfortable situation when you know that it is one of your two drivers who is going to win the championship. Obviously, it is not always easy keeping the rivalry within the team in check, but it was far removed from the struggles of this year.
“I’m very proud of the first one in 2014, because we were so keen to win it. But this one was the most hard fought of all.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton became a four-time World Champion in Mexico, putting him on a par with this year’s rival Sebastian Vettel and equal-third in terms of number of titles, sitting behind only Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher. Whilst he might have won this year, Lewis famously missed out on the chance to take his fourth title last year, losing out to teammate and bitter friend-turned-enemy Nico Rosberg at the last race of the season. Losing out to Rosberg, Wolff says, has helped the Brit to come into 2017 with a stronger mindset, and find a level of performance not seen before.
“I’ve been working with him for five years now, and I’ve never seen him operate at such a high level. The raw pace is spectacular.
He understands the tyres and the ability of the car which, at times, hasn’t been easy to drive. I haven’t seen such a sustained performance on that level before.
“After a difficult moment in Abu Dhabi last year, we had a long evening in my kitchen, during the course of which we aired all the frustrations and issues that had grown over the years and got them out of the way.
“I think that we both felt a sense of relief, and that was when the relationship went to the next level. He went off into the winter break, and he came back with a great mindset. He has grown stronger over the year. The relationship with Valtteri is also an important factor. We have a great spirit within the team. That was an important piece of the jigsaw.”
Of course with this title already sewn up and the season drawing to a close teams are looking towards next year and the 2018 campaign. This is no different with Mercedes who, whilst they may have won both titles before the season’s end, have undeniably struggled at times – especially when they find themselves behind other cars. Wolff has even described their title-winning car as a “diva”, and is trying to find ways to optimise its performance for next season.
“We plan to keep the characteristics of our diva that we like but to get rid of the ones that have caused us difficulties. Many of the teams have struggled to understand the new cars and tyres, why they function one day and not the other.
“If we look at the qualifying statistics and the race statistics, the W08 was the quickest car with the quickest driver. But we had some oscillations along the way, and we had some races where we struggled. We understand pretty well why that was the case.
“Now we just have to come up with a way of optimising it for next year. In the process, we will be leaving no stone unturned.”