Метка: Mercedes

What Mercedes’ new front wing tells us about its F1 recovery plan

The design is a clear philosophy departure from what the team started the season with, and points to a shift of approach as the German manufacturer aims to get its W15 performing better across a range of speeds.

Early-season analysis of the silver arrow highlighted that its performance profile was too narrow – it was either competitive in high-speed corners but then lacking at slower ones, or was the opposite in being good in low-speed turns but then suffering in quick curves.

As previously reported, the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin had likened the squad’s situation to that of having too small a duvet – in that it covered either the toes or the head but not both.

The challenge for Mercedes has been in finding what is needed to make the duvet bigger – so its car works at all speed ranges.

As team boss Toto Wolff said: “Shov is great with metaphors, and what we are doing now is probably solving that. I don’t think that the duvet is large enough to cover feet and head at this stage, but we’re getting there.

“[The next race] in Montreal is a little bit of an outlier of a track, but we’re going to add something there, and we’re going to add something for Barcelona — to just try to chip away, bearing in mind there could be also setbacks.”

What has changed with the new wing

Mercedes W15 front wing Monaco GP comparison

Mercedes W15 front wing Monaco GP comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The new front wing design is a complete overhaul, with the novel upper flap design it introduced at the start of the season (red arrow) abandoned in favour of a full-span solution.

This has resulted in the inboard, non-moveable sections beside the nose being narrowed, whilst the adjustable section of the two upper flaps are now wider than before.

The biggest gain from this should be in providing the team with more versatility when setting up the car, which appears to be key in getting it to perform well across different speed ranges.

These changes have also resulted in the body and tip section of the nose being altered to suit, which also triggered a change in shape for the mainplane ahead.

This is best seen in the shape of the mainplane, as it is now a little flatter across the central span (see red line for comparison).

Meanwhile, the outboard section of the mainplane has also undergone some minor surgery, as the leading edge is no longer kinked in the outboard section (yellow highlight) and has a tighter radius where it connects with the endplate.

There’s a raft of changes where the flaps meet with the endplate, as the mainplane and second-element chord height have been adjusted, with the second element now the more dominant of the duo.

Mercedes W15 front wing endplate juncture comparison

Mercedes W15 front wing endplate juncture comparison

Photo by: Giorgio Piola

The second element is now joined to the endplate once more too, as the lower section of the endplate has been flattened out to complement it.

The two rearmost elements still utilise the semi-detached method that Mercedes first introduced at the beginning of last season, but they have been optimised to suit the changes made in their vicinity.

Furthermore, another winglet has sprouted out from the upper flap and sits in the gap between the endplate and adjuster to help produce the outwash effect that the team desires (red arrow).
The team only had one of these new front wings available and opted to give it to Russell, with Hamilton choosing to wait until Montreal to have his first taste of the new approach.

Early feedback from the wing appears to be encouraging, even though Monaco was probably not the best circuit to evaluate it.

But Shovlin thinks that, with smaller other updates also being added, the next races should give some proper indications of how much progress Mercedes has made curing the W15’s Achilles heel.

“There is a reason teams do not normally bring update kits to Monaco, which is the very low-speed nature of the circuit,” he said.

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes-AMG

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Erik Junius

“The fact it is so busy, the short straights, it is very hard to actually evaluate anything. All the data we have seen though says that it was delivering performance, it was bringing a benefit in terms of how the car was feeling.

“George was happy with that, and he could feel that it was a step in the right direction.

“We are happy with what we have seen to date, but we will learn more in Montreal and then particularly when you get to a track like Barcelona with a wider corner speed range, you can really start to learn about it there.”

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Why Russell got new Mercedes F1 front wing over Hamilton in Monaco

Speaking about the 0.078-second gap between them as they lined up fifth and seventh, Hamilton was eager to suggest that he never had any realistic chance of beating Russell because of their different-specification cars.

“The team has worked really hard back at the factory to bring an upgrade in the last two races and also an upgrade this weekend — but we only had one, which George has,” he told Sky. “I anticipated it would be difficult to outqualify George because he has the upgraded component.

“Once we get to qualifying, I don’t understand. I already know automatically that I’m going to lose two-tenths going into qualifying.

“That’s definitely frustrating and it’s something that I don’t really have an answer for at the moment. I’m not driving any different. The laps are really great. Just, I don’t know.”

Hamilton went on to suggest that he did not expect to ever outqualify Russell again this season, and then later told the written media that he did not know what was happening to his car on Saturdays.

“Since the start of qualifying, it’s like… I don’t know if it’s a turn-down or something of performance,” he said. “But performance comes away from my car, for some reason. So, a bit frustrating that we’re only seventh.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Hamilton’s remarks could be interpreted as a hint that things were not entirely equal at Mercedes – and perhaps even that Russell was being given preferential treatment because he is the one who had the wing.

After all, Russell is remaining with the team next year while Hamilton has already decided to move on and join Ferrari.

However, the reality of how Mercedes chose which driver ran the wing was not a matter of picking one over the other.

Instead, Autosport understands that, with the team aware it would have only one version of the wing, the option of running the new wing was given to both drivers and it emerged that Hamilton made clear that he preferred not to go with it.

Firstly, there was the desire to have a more stable platform throughout practice and qualifying so he could build up his confidence around the track – rather than risk switching around configurations.

Plus, with the new wing being a different specification to the version run so far this season, there was an added risk from heading into qualifying with no spare.

With parc ferme rules in place, if the wing had been damaged in an incident, then a switch to revert to the other specification would have meant a breach of these regulations – and a pitlane start.

While Hamilton may have been a bit frustrated by knowing that he had a bit of a disadvantage this weekend, the team is at least sure things will be totally equal next time out in Canada.

As Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “We’ll have that on both cars for the next race in Montreal.”

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Lando Norris wins for McLaren

Norris beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc of Ferrari after the McLaren ace took full advantage to make his pitstop under the safety car, unlike all his rivals.

2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix results

2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix report

Polesitter Verstappen led the charge to Turn 1, as his team-mate Sergio Perez divebombed down the inside of the Ferraris but locked up and went straight on – just missing Verstappen.

Leclerc ran second from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz initially, but a fast-starting Oscar Piastri (McLaren) – from sixth on the grid – snatched third from the Spaniard around the outside at Turn 2, while Perez recovered in fifth, ahead of Norris.

Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) passed Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes, which started on hard tyres among a mostly medium-shod field, for seventh. Further back, the Alpines raced wheel to wheel through the Turns 13-14-15 and 16 sequence in an argument over 13th, with Pierre Gasly grabbing the spot after a brush of wheels.

Verstappen pulled clear of Leclerc’s DRS range, leaving the lead Ferrari prone to Piastri and Sainz. Piastri DRS-ed past Leclerc at Turn 17 at the end of lap four but was already 2s behind Verstappen.

Perez fell away from the leaders, into the clutches of Norris. Hamilton regained seventh from Hulkenberg on the approach to Turn 11 on lap seven, with Lewis reporting “we nearly had a big crash there” as he was squeezed towards the wall.

But Hamilton locked up six corners later and allowed Hulkenberg ahead of him again. They swapped places again three laps later, with George Russell (Mercedes) also getting by at Turn 11 a couple of laps later, which was Hulkenberg’s cue to pit for hard tyres.

The first of the frontrunners to stop was Perez on lap 18, as Norris began to hound him for fifth. Released, Norris immediately set fastest lap.

Leclerc pitted on lap 20, rejoining in sixth behind the long-running Hamilton. He pulled a superb around-the-outside move on the seven-time champion at Turn 11.

There was drama at the front too, as Verstappen collected the bollard at the apex of Turn 15 and was fortunate that it was jettisoned from the car after initially getting tangled up in his front wing and suspension. That resulted in a brief virtual safety car, to retrieve the pieces of bollard safely – but there wasn’t time for any of the leading lights to make a ‘cheap’ pitstop.

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap 23, allowing Piastri to lead from Sainz and Norris. Sainz stopped on lap 28, just before Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Logan Sargeant (Williams) clashed at Turn 3, causing a full safety car. Sargeant slammed backwards into the wall, but stepped from his car unhurt.

Norris’s long-running strategy thus paid off, as he was able to make a ‘free’ pitstop, rejoining well clear of Verstappen in the lead. Perez pitted again, going back onto mediums.

Norris led the restart from Verstappen, Leclerc, Piastri, Sainz and Perez. Yuki Tsuonda grabbed seventh from Hamilton at Turn 11.

Norris extracted himself from Verstappen’s DRS range with a brilliant opening lap, while Sainz duelled hard with Piastri for fourth – banging wheels at Turn 11. Moments later, Hamilton repassed Tsunoda around the outside of Turn 12.

Norris kept banging in impressive lap times, leaving Verstappen in his wake. Max complained: “I can’t get the car to turn, it’s a disaster.”

Sainz passed Piastri for fourth with a robust move with contact at Turn 17 on lap 39, and just managed to stay ahead as the Australian retaliated into Turn 1. Stewards will investigate their collision after the race.

Perez and Hamilton then passed Piastri, who suffered front wing damage when Sainz clipped him and was forced to pit.

Norris proved unassailable out front, beating Verstappen by 7.6s, who had Leclerc 2s further back.

Sainz finished fourth, but must see the stewards, from Perez and Hamilton.

Tsunoda finished seventh, ahead of Russell, Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) and Esteban Ocon scored Alpine’s first point of the season in 10th.

2024 F1 Miami Grand Prix fastest laps

Cla Driver  Car / Engine   Time   Delay   Kp/h 
81 Oscar Piastri McLaren/Mercedes 1’30.634   214.965
23 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1’30.849 0.215 214.456
11 Sergio Pérez Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1’30.855 0.221 214.442
55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1’30.928 0.294 214.270
4 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1’30.980 0.346 214.148
16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’31.084 0.450 213.903
44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’31.233 0.599 213.554
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Honda RBPT 1’31.261 0.627 213.488
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’31.588 0.954 212.726
10  22 Yuki Tsunoda RB/Honda RBPT 1’31.682 1.048 212.508
11  14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin/Mercedes 1’31.727 1.093 212.404
12  20 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1’31.774 1.140 212.295
13  63 George Russell Mercedes 1’31.921 1.287 211.955
14  27 Nico Hülkenberg Haas/Ferrari 1’31.941 1.307 211.909
15  24 Zhou Guanyu Sauber/Ferrari 1’31.991 1.357 211.794
16  31 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1’32.037 1.403 211.688
17  10 Pierre Gasly Alpine/Renault 1’32.055 1.421 211.647
18  77 Valtteri Bottas Sauber/Ferrari 1’32.098 1.464 211.548
19  3 Daniel Ricciardo RB/Honda RBPT 1’32.122 1.488 211.493
20  2 Logan Sargeant Williams/Mercedes 1’33.452 2.818 208.483

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It is not going to happen.

Antonelli is being evaluated by Mercedes as an option to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton for 2025, dovetailing a Formula 2 campaign at Prema with private testing in the Brackley team’s previous F1 cars.

But in recent days, the 17-year-old Mercedes protege has also been mentioned as an option to replace Williams’ Logan Sargeant this year if the Grove-based squad decides it wants to switch drivers.

That idea ramped up on Friday after it emerged that the FIA had received a request for dispensation, understood to be from Williams, to grant the Italian youngster the required superlicence to compete in F1 before he reaches the minimum age of 18.

Antonelli does not turn 18 until the end of August, fuelling speculation that he was being prepared for an F1 debut before the summer break.

But speaking to Autosport, Wolff has completely ruled out that idea, saying there is no interest from Mercedes in changing its original plans for the youngster.

«The dispensation was something that wasn’t brought up by us and we have certainly stated from the beginning that that was not something we have pursued,» Wolff said.

«I don’t know where this belief comes from that Mercedes was keen on pushing that forward. Kimi needs to concentrate on his F2 campaign and he knows that.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

Andrea Kimi Antonelli drives Mercedes W12

«Everything else is just rumours, which continue to spin around and that are factually incorrect. He’s an F2 driver for Prema, that is what he’s doing, and this is what we’re all concentrating on.»

Wolff stressed that Mercedes would remain careful not to burn Antonelli by promoting him too early, given his rapid rise through the junior series and his lack of experience.

«Just 15 months ago, he was in an F4 car,» he said. «We have great belief in Kimi, his abilities and also his future.

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«But there is a trajectory which we need to follow with diligence, rather than trying to dream about jumping from series to series in a way that is certainly not beneficial for him.

«I think a champion is not going to be distracted by any of this. But certainly, at least it distracts me because everybody’s asking me: ‘What about Kimi and driving in Imola?

«This is not going to happen. This is not something that Mercedes wants. These rumours have gotten their own spin. Let’s do Formula 2. We as a team have lots of other issues to resolve.»

Wolff made clear that Mercedes had never expressed any interest in fast-tracking Antonelli into F1, and suggested that the dispensation request was something done by a third party.

«I think that this dispensation is probably something that got some traction because more and more people flirted with the idea,» he said. «But it’s certainly nothing that we have ever pushed from our side.»

Wolff said Mercedes was happy with the progress Antonelli is making, comparing favourably to Ferrari’s highly-rated Jeddah debutant Oliver Bearman in F1 so far.

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Mercedes testing at Imola

Andrea Kimi Antonelli, Mercedes testing at Imola

Photo by: Davide Cavazza

Last month, he also completed a maiden F1 test with the 2021 Mercedes W12 at the Red Bull Ring, followed by an Imola test in the more recent but trickier-to-drive 2022 W13.

«It’s completely on the trajectory that we expected,» Wolff said about his protege’s progress.

«There are easier days, there are harder days. I think between the two drivers and the team, they need to sort out a few issues, but it’s not unexpected. And the testing goes very well and we are just approaching it calm and collected.

«That is what we have planned before the season, a solid F2 campaign and testing for Mercedes, and we will continue to just do this. Everything else is just a distraction for all of us.

«We are super happy with George [Russell]. He’s going to continue to be a driver in this team. And everything else we see panning out on the driver market.

«It’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or a couple of months.»

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Wolff trusts Hamilton to remain «a pro» despite Mercedes F1 hardship

Mercedes’ performance has been up and down since the introduction of new ground-effect regulations in F1 two years ago, and the 2024 season has exemplified this issue so far.

Hamilton branded his W15 «an amazing car» after the first two grands prix in 2024, before admitting to being «the least confident ever» in this machine following practice at the Australian Grand Prix. He then had his «best» feeling of the year on Friday in Japan and achieved second place in the Chinese sprint, but was subsequently knocked out in Q1 at the same circuit.

Despite glimpses of speed, the seven-time world champion is yet to finish a Sunday F1 race in the top six this season. Wolff is nonetheless convinced his driver will remain diligent for the remainder of the campaign, not least in his working relationship with team-mate George Russell.

«I think that Lewis is a pro and has behaved in that way until now, trying to keep his morale up and the morale of the team even if the results don’t come», the Austrian said.

«I have no doubt that this is going to last. He has also been supportive with George.»

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Hamilton himself stated on Thursday at the Japanese Grand Prix that he was keen to remain focused on his current season with Mercedes, rather than his upcoming move to Ferrari.

«Right now, I want to finish on a high here,» the Briton said. «So all my energy is going into this. Of course, there’s excitement for the future. But right now, we’re going through a difficult place. That’s my challenge.

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«That’s where all my energy is going, to try and figure out how we can get ourselves back to the top. How can I work with the guys? How can I give better debriefs, give them better direction to get back fighting at the front?

«I’m a competitor first and foremost, so I want to win. Just thinking about the next year isn’t going to help me do that.»

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Mercedes taking action to cure F1 car’s “underlying balance” problem

The German manufacturer has endured a challenging start to the 2024 campaign, with its W15 showing flashes of speed but struggling to deliver consistency through race weekends.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have battled a ‘knife-edge’ feeling at times, as Mercedes has failed to nail a set-up that exploits the potential that it believes is locked in the car.

While the team is hopeful that an aerodynamic upgrade package scheduled for the next race in Miami will bring an overall lift to its performance, the squad is also in tandem planning other changes to its car over the next few grands prix.

Speaking in the team’s regular post-race video debrief, technical director James Allison has revealed the upcoming introduction of new parts are specifically targeted at making the car handle much better.

“We’ve got upgrade packages coming to the car but also components that we hope will rectify the underlying balance that is causing us difficulty,” he said, reflecting on another up-and-down weekend at the Chinese GP.

“Much as it’s painful to talk in this way after a weekend like this, I just have to remember that there’ll be races in the future when we’ve executed those things, when we’re back more on the front foot and when we’re progressing, where the pleasure of talking about it will be massive, and that day can’t come soon enough.”

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Erik Junius

Allison said that while the team delivered a well-executed race in China to bring home a double points finish, the overall performance was far from the high standards that he and Mercedes expected.

“We’ve had something of a front-limited car all year, especially in the lower-speed corners, and that was really amped up to 11 this weekend,” he said.

“Once you’ve got front tyres that don’t want to go around the corner, that means the drivers have to wait an eon to get on the power on the exit of the corner, you haemorrhage lap time there.

“In extremis, actually to make the car go around the corner, they have to boot it around the corner with the throttle to loosen up the rear end somewhat, and that kills the rear tyres so you end up overheating on the rear as a result of being front-limited.

“It’s no pleasure at all to be taken from a weekend which, even though competently executed and well driven by both guys – no pleasure at all when the hardware itself is not where it needs to be or should be.

“Of course, the challenge that we face in the coming races is to try and move both the set-up of the car and also the pieces that we bring to the car so that that’s improved.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Allison said that going into Miami, Mercedes also needed to change its approach to mid-weekend set-up changes, with both drivers having made big shifts from the China sprint into the main grand prix, which did not deliver the step forward hoped for.

“We definitely learnt during this weekend that if you’re going to be ambitious, be ambitious in the sprint race and then tune it down for the main race rather than the opposite way around,” he said.

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“Hopefully we’ll land a car in a better place, that the upgrades that we’re going to bring to Miami serve us well in a grid that in qualifying at least is really close.

“Around the part of the battle we’re fighting, a few hundredths can make a difference sometimes and a couple of tenths would make all the difference in the world. So, looking forward to seeing how that all plays out.”

Watch: Who Are The Key Players In The F1 2025 Driver Market

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Mercedes locked in F1 «battle of fine margins»

The German manufacturer has endured a bruising start to the 2024 season, with it yet to finish on the podium and currently lying in fourth in the constructors’ championship – just one point ahead of Aston Martin.

But while on paper its situation does not look promising, Russell thinks that Mercedes’ fate has been exacerbated by tiny elements – and a relatively minor uplift in pace would change it dramatically.

“I think small things make a big difference to the overall result,” said Russell ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix.

“I think an extra tenth or two in qualifying and you are four positions higher on the grid. We wouldn’t [in Japan] have then made the bold choice of starting on the hard, which, with the information we had at the time, was absolutely the correct decision. The race would have panned out very, very differently.

“We’re in a battle of fine margins right now. We’ve been on the wrong end of that for the past few race weekends, at two circuits that I don’t think really suit the characteristics of that car.”

With the Mercedes W15 struggling against the opposition in high-speed corners, its weakness has been exposed at recent venues like Jeddah, Australia and Suzuka.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

That is why Russell sees this weekend’s Chinese GP as perhaps a better indicator of Mercedes’ potential, with its profile being more geared towards medium- and low-speed corners.

“I think this will be a really good test this weekend to see where we do fall out, compared to McLaren as well,” he explained.

“They seem to be exceptionally strong in the high-speed corners and a bit weak in the low-speed corners. There is a lot more potential to be shown. I don’t think we have optimised the car and its set-up in the last couple of races. That’s what we’re homing in on.”

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Team-mate Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes would not be running any upgrades in Shanghai this weekend but was carrying forward some important set-up lessons that it uncovered in Japan.

“Nothing has changed with our car, so it’s going to be the same car this weekend,” he said. “But we understand it a little bit more.

“Looking at the last weekend, we did make improvements. So, if we could go back, we would have done things differently, and that is the benefit of hindsight and experience.

“We will try and bring that here this weekend and see if we can implement some of those changes that we would have perhaps done further in Suzuka. Hopefully that can find us a bit of performance.”

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Mercedes could never «abandon» current car for F1 2026 head start

The German manufacturer is facing up to the reality that it has still not mastered its understanding of the latest ground effect regulations, with its W15 not producing the Red Bull-challenging form hoped for.

In fact, Mercedes has admitted that its 2024 challenger is exhibiting characteristics that ‘make no sense’, with increased levels of downforce not translating into extra performance on track.

It suspects that its issues may be more mechanical related rather than anything to do with pure aerodynamics.

Wolff has said he is in no doubt that Max Verstappen and Red Bull already look well on their way to world championship glory and that finishing best of the rest is his team’s main target right now.

But as it chases answers for what it is lacking with its W15, there is a scenario emerging where Mercedes could decide it is not worth throwing endless resource at the current rules – as it could be better off committing early to its 2026 challenger to ensure it is quick off the blocks.

Such a call does not need to come yet, with the FIA not allowing teams to begin work on the aerodynamics of the new cars until the start of 2025.

But when asked by Autosport if there could come a time later this year where Mercedes has to make a call on abandoning the current rules cycle, Wolff was emphatic about his team’s stance.

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

“We are Mercedes,” he said. “We cannot completely abandon the current regulations and continue to perform at the level we are at the moment.

“That’s not the ambition of the brand, nor our own and our partners. So, no. I think you’ve got to continue to push, continue to form your understanding.

“But eventually, when the FIA comes up with some kind of form of regulations, we, like all the other teams, we will be starting to look at it, and probably more on the earlier side.”

Wolff reckons that Mercedes is locked in the chasing pack behind Red Bull with Ferrari and McLaren — which ultimately was not what its F1 ambition was.

“If your expectation is eventually to race for wins and championships, then you can say we’re in a bit of a no man’s land because Max and Red Bull are far ahead,” he explained.

“We are in this bunch, but it’s not satisfying for either team that is fighting for P2, P3, or P4. I’ve always said that if I was to look from a pure sporting point of view, it is P1 what matters and not P2/P3/P4.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24 and George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15 Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24 and George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“But this is a reality that we are facing at the moment and we’re trying to do the best out of this new reality.

“That [our aim] is to beat our direct competitors, whilst acknowledging that somebody is just doing a better job, and setting a benchmark that we eventually need to set ourselves again on whether we’re able to win races this year, and I wouldn’t want to let that ambition go. And certainly not next year.

“For 2026 there is a big reset, which certainly provides the most realistic opportunity for any other team to beat Red Bull. But there is one-and-three-quarter seasons before that, and I don’t want to go through much more suffering in the next 18 months. I would just hope for highlights and a trajectory that’s going upwards.”

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Wolff’s «pathological egomaniac» Masi remark shows F1 Abu Dhabi 2021 wounds remain

Masi came under fire for the way he handled the closing stages of the 2021 season finale, where he ended the safety car period just in time to enable a final-lap showdown between title rivals Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

It allowed Red Bull driver Verstappen, who was on fresher tyres, to make a last-gasp pass on Mercedes rival Hamilton for the lead and with it clinch his maiden drivers’ crown.

The critics felt Masi had not followed the rules in Abu Dhabi on two counts, having neither allowed all lapped cars to unlap themselves nor left enough of a gap until the restart.

The FIA conducted an investigation into his handling of the race and concluded that he had acted in «good faith», even if there was a «human error» on his part in not letting all lapped cars rejoin the back of the field.

Masi was dropped from his post as F1’s race director even before the investigation had been completed and later split with the FIA altogether, with the governing body going on to make a number of changes to its procedure in order to avoid a repeat of the incident.

Although the furore regarding the 2021 title decider has died down over the years, in part due to Red Bull’s dominance under new regulations and Mercedes’ subsequent decline in form, the Yas Marina race remains one of the most controversial events in recent sporting history.

Michael Masi, FIA

Michael Masi, FIA

Photo by: Erik Junius

In an interview conducted last year for The Formula book, Wolff once again hit out at the Australian, saying it is «unfair» how his actions tilted the title battle away from Hamilton.

«When I keep my thoughts running with it, it’s so unfair what happened to Lewis and the team that day, that a single individual breaking the rules has basically let that happen,» Wolff said.

«Even though he’s completely irrelevant: he lives on the other side of the world and nobody is interested in him.

«He was really a total, pathological egomaniac.»

In its investigation, the FIA noted that Masi had taken into account the desires of F1 stakeholders, including teams, to end races under green-flag conditions and avoid anti-climactic safety car finishes.

Wolff admitted there was a showbiz element to that year’s Abu Dhabi finale, but feels Hamilton was «robbed» of a record eight drivers’ title in a move that left a lasting impact on the history of F1.

«It’s the drama and glory, which makes the sport so compelling,» he said. «Everyone saw the drama of a worthy eight-time world champion that was robbed of his title.

The Safety Car leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, and the rest of the field

The Safety Car leads Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A521, and the rest of the field

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

«I’d rather have it finished the other way around, but clearly that’s a mark in history.»

At the end of last year, Hamilton admitted he did briefly consider retiring from F1 in the wake of the 2021 Abu Dhabi GP, but eventually decided to extend his career in grand prix racing.

The British driver described the events that followed the immediate aftermath of the race, as he joined newly-crowned champion Verstappen in the parc ferme, as the «defining moments» of his life.

«Was I robbed? Obviously. You know the story,» Hamilton told the GQ magazine. «But what was really beautiful in that moment, which I take away from it, was my dad [Anthony] was with me. And we’d gone through this huge roller coaster of life together, ups and downs.

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«And the day that it hurt the most, he was there, and the way he raised me was to always stand up, keep your head high.

«I obviously went to congratulate Max, and not realising the impact that would have, but also I was really conscious of [that] there’s a mini-me watching. This is the defining moment of my life. And I think it really was. I felt it.

«I didn’t know how it was going to be perceived. I hadn’t visualised it. But I was definitely conscious of: These next 50 meters that I walk is where I fall to the ground and die, or I rise up.»

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