Toto Wolff’s “honeymoon period” over after Ross Brawn “did a lot of the groundwork”

Toto Wolff has a lot of work to do to turn Mercedes around, according to Damon Hill.

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director in the FIA Press Conference. Formula 1 World
Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director in the…

1996 F1 world champion Damon Hill believes Toto Wolff faces a “tough” challenge to alter Mercedes’ trajectory, stating that his “honeymoon period” is firmly over.

Mercedes have endured a miserable start to the 2024 F1 season, with their best finish (in a grand prix) only a P5 at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The team sit fourth in the constructors’ championship, behind Mercedes customer team, McLaren.

Mercedes have struggled to get things right at the start of the ground effect era in 2022, seemingly struggling with the same issues year-on-year.

Up until that point, under Wolff’s leadership since 2014, Mercedes remained unbeaten in the championship.

Wolff’s arrival coincided with Mercedes’ upwards trajectory, already focused on the 2014 engine regulations, the team were already making significant progress and steps with Ross Brawn at the helm.

One criticism pointed towards Wolff is that while he did a fantastic job managing Mercedes during their dominant years, he didn’t build up the team - something that he has to do now given their barren spell.

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian
Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director…

Speaking during Sky’s Chinese GP broadcast, Hill gave his view on Mercedes’ plight.

“I think he [Hamilton] probably knew [of Mercedes’ struggles], the moment the first new regulation car appeared, that Mercedes were all at sea,” he said.

“Toto has had a long honeymoon period, a fantastic period of success with the team that he moved into which was pre-formed. Ross Brawn did a lot of the groundwork for that. It’s hard now, for him.

“The real work begins when you’ve got it wrong or when something isn’t going right. That’s quite tough to work out. That’s his job, he’s the boss, he’s got to work out where it’s going wrong, and who’s not telling him what’s going wrong within the team.”

Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok remains confused about why Mercedes continue to underperform given their world class facilities and significant budget.

“It’s an interesting position that they find themselves in, Chandhok added. “They’ve still got so many of the good people, like James Allison and Andrew Shovlin, the engineering brains. They’ve got amazing facilities. 

“They are the first time with a £500m profit so there’s no shortage of budget. [Toto] has got to understand; if these things are not the problem, where is the deficit?”

While Mercedes are struggling as a team, Lewis Hamilton's tricky campaign continued in Shanghai, finishing ninth.

Assessing his race, Chandhok said: "I thought he’d get into the points. He got into ninth which was the best it could be, with the car today. A couple of good moves. On the whole, he never looked like he had a car underneath him capable of getting past a Ferrari."

Hill added: "The problem is, a couple of great moves yes, but these are easy pickings. This car is way better than the cars he was overtaking. It’s when you get up to the sharp end… George didn’t get anywhere from the midfield near the front."

"You've got to understand why you're slow now"

Mercedes appear to be no closer to understanding their current issues following a tough start to the year.

With new rules coming into play in 2026, Mercedes will fancy their chances of turning their fortunes around.

However, Chandhok feels that Mercedes need to understand why they're slow now to have any chance of returning to winning ways in 2026.

"But to be quick in 2026 you’ve got to understand why you are slow now," he explained. "We’re into the third season of this. Toto is still talking about experimenting, trying to find big performance gains. 

"It could be that they still haven’t got a clear answer as to where the deficit to Red Bull is, let alone McLaren or Ferrari."

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