Mercedes’ Performance Woes: Wolff Cites Key Departures

2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Friday - Lewis Hamilton
2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Friday - Lewis Hamilton

Toto Wolff has addressed concerns that Mercedes’ once-dominant team structure appears to be facing significant and ongoing challenges.

Just before the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, it was revealed that key team members Jerome d’Ambrosio, who serves as Wolff’s deputy, and Loic Serra, head of chassis performance, were defecting to Ferrari. The situation worsened at Imola with news that Mercedes’ chief aerodynamicist, Gioacchino Vino, is also departing. However, Mercedes is also gaining new talent, with Ferrari’s Simone Resta and Enrico Sampo joining the team.

Mercedes’ technical director, James Allison, commented on the turnover, saying, “I don’t think there’s any point in me offering a commentary on motivation. Clearly, a team needs to have a critical mass of experienced and good people. And we would not wish to see experienced good people leave us. But we also are gathering experienced and good people at a similar rate. So I guess it’s our job to try and make sure we act in such a way as everybody would rather be with us than anywhere else.”

The Brackley-based team, which dominated the previous ‘hybrid’ regulations era, has struggled under the new Red Bull-dominated ‘ground effect’ rules. This frustration was evident when the Mercedes cars finished sixth and seventh at Imola, despite a car upgrade.

“That’s where we are and it’s extremely disappointing,” Wolff told Sky Deutschland after the race. “If you’re 30 seconds plus from the top, that’s not what we want and we can’t be proud of that. The results do not show that we are making progress with the car. There is frustration in my voice, but there is progress and more to come. It’s just how this sport works.”

Wolff admitted that the team’s post-2021 slump is partly due to “the human factor.” He elaborated, “As far as I see the situation, someone wanted to leave, someone was forced to leave due to certain circumstances, but we are not only losing personnel, we are also gaining them. All this is happening under the leadership of James Allison, who is doing a good job.”

Mathias Lauda, son of the late Niki Lauda, believes Mercedes is also feeling the absence of his father, who passed away in 2019. “I don’t want to offend Toto Wolff, because Toto does a very good job,” he told Servus TV. “But of course my father had a lot more Formula 1 experience. He came from a completely different generation and had a completely different way of thinking. They took the best of both sides and were able to grow together.”

Mathias also speculated that his father might have prevented Lewis Hamilton from considering a move to Ferrari. “Lewis needed my father there in the team as an anchor. Not just when it comes to Formula 1, but also for life. Lewis, like everyone, has his concerns and his insecurities, even if we don’t notice much of it.”

As Mercedes navigates these challenges, the team aims to stabilize and regain its competitive edge while dealing with significant personnel changes and the evolving dynamics of Formula 1.

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