Formula 1

Wolff: “This is the Most Painful Day of the Last Six Years”

3 Mins read
Toto Wolff looks dejected
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Toto Wolff admitted that the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix was “the most painful day of the last six years“, as not only did Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport lose a potential 1-2 finish, lose the lead of the Drivers’ Championship and the lead of the Constructors’ Championship, they did so “through our own mistakes and unreliability“.

Having started first and second on the grid, and having maintained those positions by the end of the first lap (though with pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas in second, behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton) Mercedes looked to be set for another convincing win at the track they’ve won the last four grands prix at. This wasn’t to be the case however, as after just thirteen laps Bottas developed a hydraulic pressure issue, causing him to retire at the side of the track.

With Bottas’ car sat on the outside of turn four a Virtual Safety Car was released to clear it up – and presented an opportunity for teams to pit drivers and lose less time than during normal race laps. This was an opportunity that both Scuderia Ferrari and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing took with both hands, both deciding to pit both drivers. Mercedes, on the other hand, decided to leave Hamilton out. This meant that whilst the Brit extended his lead over his competitors, it wasn’t enough to give him a clear pit stop – instead meaning he dropped down to fourth when he exited the pits.

The bad luck wasn’t over yet though. Track temperature was an issue for many teams, and Mercedes was no different. Hamilton, in an attempt to make up for lost time, started to chase down third-placed Sebastian Vettel. This resulted in the blistering of his tyres, losing him grip and giving the reigning champion no choice but to enter the pits and change his tyres again.

Shortly after Hamilton pitted he picked up a fuel pressure issue, causing him to retire on lap sixty-two of the seventy-one lap race.

This is the first time Mercedes have had a double non-finish since the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Wolff, who is from Austria, said that the team were caught out by how quickly Bottas’ car was recovered, and that by the time the VSC period was over, it was too late to bring in Hamilton.

“For me and for the team, this is the most painful day of the last six years – to lose a possible 1-2 finish in this way, through our own mistakes and unreliability, just hurts so much. We had a spectacular first lap: a great getaway for Lewis and Valtteri battling back into P2 under braking for Turn 4.

“For the first 13 laps, it looked good, with both drivers in control and managing the pace well. The first blow was Valtteri’s retirement after losing hydraulic pressure – this brought out the VSC. We decided to leave Lewis on track for one lap, because we thought it would take longer to clear the car from its position, and be able to react what the cars behind us did on the following lap. But the VSC cleared sooner than predicted; we simply made the wrong decision.

“That left Lewis with an uphill battle – we pitted soon after racing resumed, put him on the soft tyre, and he then had to try and make up the ground on track. In doing so, the rear tyres blistered, he lost position to Sebastian, then we decided to pit again as there was nothing to lose from doing so – but, shortly after, a loss of fuel pressure forced him to retire.”

Finding the silver lining in an otherwise pretty dark cloud, Wolff conceded that the team would learn a lot from their mistakes, and that the next race – the British Grand Prix – is their next opportunity to “make amends”.

“A double retirement through reliability is hard to stomach but we know from bitter experience that the difficult days are when we learn the most. We will pick ourselves up in the next days, learn from our errors and go to Silverstone with our heads held high. It is a home race for the many team members in Brackley and Brixworth; we will be aiming to come back strong and make amends for our failures today.

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