Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “This is not the start to the 2018 season we had hoped for”

Lewis Hamilton has yet to win a race in 2018
Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm

Toto Wolff admits the beginning of the 2018 Formula 1 season has not seen the kind of results the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team were hoping for, after both the Australian and Bahrain Grand Prix saw Sebastian Vettel deny them victory, albeit in completely different ways.

The Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport watched as Vettel stole the Australian Grand Prix out of Lewis Hamilton’s hands due to a lucky break thanks to the timing of a virtual safety car, while a gamble with his tyres enabled the German to prevent Valtteri Bottas from winning in Bahrain last weekend.

Wolff says the first two races of the season both ultimately turned into damage limitation results for Mercedes, and the results prove that there is no margin for error in what appears to be an extremely close battle at the front between themselves, Ferrari and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing.

“This is not the start to the 2018 season we had hoped for,” admitted Wolff.  “For two races in a row, we did damage limitation with one car and lost the win with the other. Both races were decided by fine margins, but that doesn’t make it any better; in fact, it probably makes it more frustrating.

“The competition is extremely close in 2018 and Melbourne was already a strong reminder that there is absolutely no margin for imperfections or mistakes in this year’s title fight. While we saw a completely different race in Bahrain and lost for different reasons, the message stayed the same: In order to win this year, we need to bring our A game.”

Wolff admitted the team were not satisfied with the result in Bahrain, with second for Bottas and third for Hamilton, and a lot of work will go on in order to improve their performance levels, starting this weekend in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix.

“I think our team showed the right reaction after the chequered flag in Bahrain: instead of being satisfied with the double podium finish, everyone realised that P2 and P3 was the minimum result we should expect with both Red Bulls and Kimi [Raikkonen] out of the race,” said Wolff.  “So we started to analyse what went wrong in Bahrain in order to improve for China and come back stronger.

“We’re quite happy that this is a back-to-back race as that means that we won’t have to wait long to get racing again. Shanghai has been a good track for us in the past, so hopefully we will get the chance to right some of the wrongs of the past weeks and show a performance that is worthy of Mercedes.”