Wolff: 2018 ‘an exceptional year’ for Mercedes

by Jake Nichol

Toto Wolff has described 2018 as “an exceptional year” for Mercedes as the manufacturer secured championship titles in Formula 1, Formula 2, European Formula 3 and the DTM.

Mercedes’ F1 team became just the second in history to claim both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships for a fifth successive time in the 2018 season, with Lewis Hamilton’s 11 grands prix wins helping to see off the challenge from Sebastian Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari. 

After a tight first half of the season, where Hamilton claimed five victories to Vettel’s four, the British driver dominated the second-half of the season, only dropping 23 points in eight grands prix, to claim his fifth title in Mexico. Hamilton became just the third driver after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher to be crowned a quintuple world champion.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was the 100th of the V6 Turbo Hybrid era, with Hamilton easing to his 52nd pole and 51st win of the regulation set. His race was characterised by an early pitstop under Virtual Safety Car conditions for a switch to super-soft tyres.

Wolff described the call as the “safer strategy,” in an attempt to protect Hamilton “against an undercut or VSC, or safety car in the race later on, where we would have lost a position.”

Hamilton also became the first driver to break the 400-point mark in a championship season, with his haul of 408, 88 more than Vettel could manage in second.

“We’ve had an exceptional year overall at Mercedes,” said Wolff. “All the series we have won is a highlight for me.

“I would say my first highlight [is] the combination of events after winning DTM on one weekend and then the drivers’ title in F1 and then the constructors’.

It [felt] like a huge weight off our shoulders. The second highlight for me was Lewis’ Singapore qualifying lap as a standout event.”

Bottas unlucky in season and race

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas became the first Mercedes driver not to win a Grand Prix, since the team returned to the sport in 2010 since Schumacher in ’12.

The Finn claimed three pole positions, but was denied victory in Azerbaijan by a late puncture, and then ordered to move aside for Hamilton in Russia to aid his title bid.

Bottas took fifth in the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, a race that he led, but in which he suffered from what Wolff described as “odd braking behaviour on the rear right.”

“We couldn’t really see what it was,” he explained. “We just saw that the balance wasn’t right. The team needs to properly investigate the situation.”

Bottas himself was more succinct in describing his race and season, telling Autosport: “everything turned to s**t.”

Success elsewhere

Mercedes drivers enjoyed title-winning success in other categories in 2018, with juniors George Russell and Mick Schumacher claiming the F2 and Euro F3 crowns, respectively.

Russell, the 2017 GP3 champion, has secured himself a race seat in F1 for ’19 with Williams Martini Racing alongside the returning Robert Kubica. 

A run of five wins in six races propelled Schumacher to the Euro F3 title with Prema Theodore Racing, earning the son of seven-time F1 champion Michael an F2 seat for 2019.

Mercedes also claimed the DTM drivers’ title in its final season in the series, as  Gary Paffett secured his second crown for the team.

 

 

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