A jump “never seen” in F1

He has been in Formula 1 for years, he is a world champion with his team and, nevertheless, he assures that he had never seen anything like it. Toto Wolff, Mercedes director, applauds the great step forward of Aston Martin at the start of this new course. Expectations were high, the joy and hope within the Silverstone factory was palpable and, despite trying to puncture a ‘souffle’ that was filled with illusion, they have achieved the opposite effect. Alonso’s third place has inflated him more while the bosses of the brand try to put their feet on the ground. Something difficult to achieve, especially when big teams like Mercedes or Red Bull already have them in their sights. Aston Martin is already a threat because they see them capable of winning races this very course. An objective that they did not pursue at first, but which has now become a more than real possibility.

“They’ve done a really good job,” Wolff admitted after the Bahrain GP in which, in addition, the Mercedes executive admitted his lack of competitiveness at the start of the season, aware that there is a lot of work to be done since, if Aston Martin can, they have to look for the formula that makes them perform closer to their great rivals. “It has not gone well at all, really. We have lacked rhythm everywhere ”, he revealed to sky sports, assuring that last Sunday had been “one of the worst days” that he has come to live in F1. “We have to take one step after another to recover. But they have to be much more radical steps than an improvement of three tenths”, because, she recalls, “Red Bull is on another planet” and the mark of the silver star can only aspire to defeat them and recover the throne that they occupied for so many years. Although, at the moment, it seems something far away: “That’s what hurts, because they are so far ahead.”

And it is that Mercedes, unlike Aston Martin, It has continued to bet on a continuity model. Little revolution in his new W14 and repeating the same trend as in 2022. For this reason, Wolff is clear: a revolution is needed if they want to hit the table. “We were wrong, we thought we could turn it around by sticking to this concept car, but it hasn’t worked. We need to change the approach regarding what is the right direction and know what we are missing”, explained the Austrian in the face of a challenge that seems complex, but not impossible. “We can, of course we can,” says Toto and more after seeing the leap that Aston Martin has made. A fact, he says, “never seen in Formula 1”. Miracles may exist, but it is clear that the British manufacturer has bet everything to reach the top of F1. A million-dollar investment, a lot of work in winter and a team that has not stopped believing, motivated by a two-time champion like Fernando Alonso and with great signings that focused on the development of the car from the beginning.

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“They hired a man from Red Bull (Dan Fallows, Aston Martin Technical Director) which has made the car suddenly two seconds faster. A year ago they were 17th and 19th in classification ”, Wolff highlights the engineer who came to work hand in hand with Adrian Newey and who, therefore, knows the secrets of the energy brand. And for the pilots there is no shortage of compliments from the Mercedes manager: “We knew that Alonso was strong and motivated, but even Lance Stroll was ahead with two broken hands and a broken toe. That shows how good the car is.”

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - MARCH 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 and George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W14 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain.  (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 and George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W14 during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)Eric AlonsoGetty

“If I had to push Hamilton on the track, I would”

Putting aside everything you can’t control, Wolff looks inward and focuses on the problems in his garage. It is clear that Mercedes is far from the level expected from the factory: when everyone expected a revolutionary car, they opted for a line of continuity that, now, they seem to regret. And all of this revolves around another crucial fact: Hamilton ends contract and its renewal is up in the air. But, as it happened a year ago, Toto again dodges the subject. “I think it is not time to talk about the situation of the driver in 2024,” says the manager, repeating that the seven-time champion is “an integral part of the team, taking it up.” “We always fight together” he remembers, trying to calm the waters of a negotiation of which, for the moment, nothing is known. Or at least not beyond the intention of the British, who during the team presentation He has already dropped his desire to stay a few more years.

But, does Mercedes worry that Hamilton could change his mind in view of the bad start to the year and his clear difference with Red Bull? Toto is not worried in the least: “I don’t think this is going to change just because we had, once again, another bad start. We have won eight constructors’ and six drivers’ championships with him, that unites. Those relationships bond.” And comparing Lewis (38 years old) with what Fernando is achieving at his 42nd, Wolff comes out in his defense again: “Alonso? Hamilton has at least four years of sporting life ahead of him, which we will achieve. I will do whatever it takes to lead him to win the eighth title. Even if I had to get on the track to push him, I would do it. The soap opera is just beginning.

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