I appreciate humility as much as the next guy but I have had some fun reading Toto Wolff’s attempt at tucking their 5-year sheer dominance under a desk like a booger from a 6th grade bully’s nose.
The fact is, they’ve had a baked-in advantage since 2014 and I know there are a few of you who get mad when I say that but it is true and 5 titles justifies my accusation. Lewis Hamilton fans take that as an attempt at marginalizing his success but did you hear me do that with Schumacher or Vettel? No, part of being a champ is being at the right team at the right time and working with that team to win. Think Alonso at Ferrari and how that didn’t work. Lewis, like Vettel and Schumacher, makes it work.
Having said that to assuage the Team LH hate I’ll get, I found today’s comments from Mr. Wolff yet another in a long multi-year stream of platitudes about how they are seriously under threat and they are running on a thread barely able to win races due to the fierce competition. Today’s comments takes the cake though:
“I think with the rule changes everything is possible,” Wolff said.
“It is almost like 2009 where Brawn identified the double diffuser. I think there could be teams that have found loopholes, which others didn’t spot, that could make the difference.
“So we are taking everybody seriously: whether it is Ferrari finishing second this year or Williams finishing 10th. All of them could come with a car that can outperform us.
“We are respecting all these teams and the effort they put into it and all of them are being seen as competitors.”
First, I hope he’s right and Williams F1 comes back in 2019 and dominates to win the title, that would be awesome. Second, it ain’t happening and Toto knows it. If there is a grey area, the geniuses at Mercedes are the first people to find and exploit it as they have a phalanx of brilliant engineers who look for that stuff.
I’m not sure there is any room left for the Brawn dual-diffuser magic anymore but I could be wrong. I think most teams have squeezed that dry and flaking aero sponge enough. Regardless, if there is a tweak that finds Williams at the forefront, Mercedes has a chassis like no one else and will adapt and come back strong.
“We’ve seen throughout the season that all engine manufacturers including us have made big steps,” he said.
“Ferrari have a very strong power unit this year. Honda made big improvements with exceptional performances in the Toro Rosso. Also Renault propelled the Red Bull to be a win candidate at almost every race at the end of the season.
“You can see engine performance is converging. We have been the leader of the pack for many years now and, in order to stay leader of the pack next year again, and return to this position, we need to push very hard and we need to set ambitious targets.
“But as Formula 1 has also become an efficiency formula, it is important you need to have the most powerful engine that actually finishes the race.
“It’s not only about peak performance, it’s about peak reliability. That balance is very difficult.”
Red Bull are a good example of a fabulous chassis that flattered a wheezing Renault engine into a few podiums and wins but that’s hardly the kind of tooth and nail competition he may be alluding to.
Could Mercedes lose their edge? Sure. If they do, it may come from Ferrari to be honest because although he speaks of engine parity, Ferrari are the only ones who have shown to be remotely close to Mercedes. The rest is chassis magic and track specific in the case of Red Bull.
In the end, I expect Toto and the fine folks at Merc to be just as competitive as they have been and Ferrari, perhaps, a tad bit closer. Mercedes could miss a chassis element and leave them second best but the idea of Williams beating them is, for me, the stuff of dreams and unicorn toe-nail clippings.
Hat Tip: Autosport