Wolff: Mercedes still haunted by "scepticism and pessimism"

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his team continues to be haunted by "scepticism and pessimism", despite its record-breaking seven consecutive Formula 1 world championship doubles.

Wolff: Mercedes still haunted by "scepticism and pessimism"

The German car manufacturer has been dominant since the turbo hybrid era started in 2014, and was a step clear of rivals last year as it was beaten just three times.

Wolff says that the scale of the advantage it had in 2020 caught it by surprise, with Red Bull’s challenge falling short and Ferrari’s pace dropping off.

However, Wolff says in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com that key to its ongoing success is a paranoid mindset at the team that makes it fear that its run of dominance will soon end.

“Every year, performances that are similar to the ones that we had [in 2020] come as a surprise, because by nature, we are sceptical people,” said Wolff.

“That keeps us on our toes for the targets that we set ourselves, and we are always a little bit behind.

“In that respect, we are all pleasantly surprised when we get out of the blocks and see that we are in a good position. But that scepticism and pessimism around our own performance level continues to haunt us during all of the seasons.

“We're never quite sure that we make it, until it's really done. And we are not fishing for compliments here. It's simply the attitude we have.”

Read Also:

Wolff says he has no answer as to why immensely strong rivals like Red Bull and Ferrari have not managed to pull together a strong enough title challenge over recent years, although he suggests some core strengths of Mercedes have helped.

“We respect our competitors, and we have great respect for the people in those teams,” he said.

“I see these guys in the paddock and I know that they're giving it everything, in the same way we are giving it everything.

“I cannot really look into other organisations, and that's why it's very difficult for me to pinpoint where their weaknesses lie or where we have advantages.

“I just know we are a good place to work, we are a fun place, but we are also a place that puts pressure on ourselves.

“We are able though to strike the balance between pressure making a pipe burst or producing a diamond. And that is something that you can't put on a PowerPoint presentation. This is something that you need to live every day.

“You need to empower. You need to be a safe place for the employees. You need to allow them to speak up, to make mistakes and have the right values. And all that can only be built up over time.”

Wolff is clear though that sometimes Mercedes’ determination not to get beaten can push its staff to the edge, as happened when its engine department faced the challenge of Ferrari’s powerful 2019 engine that was eventually pegged back by FIA technical directives.

“When I look within MGP and HPP, or Mercedes' motorsport organization, I can see that the last year on the absolute edge of performance delivery, amid a cost cap environment and the restructuring needed because of COVID, it's been, taking its toll," he added.

“We have we do everything within our arsenal of instruments to try to be in a good space and keep our energy levels high, set the right objectives and find purpose in what we do.

“But years like 2020 are sometimes very difficult and not as straightforward as previous years have been.”

Reflecting in particular on Mercedes’ engine division and the stress it was put through in recovering lost ground to Ferrari, Wolff said: “HPP has been pushed to the limits in 2019, trying to catch up to the benchmark power unit that was Ferrari [in 2019].

“I would say at certain stages, overstretched into unhealthy territory with the support of MGP, where chassis related items to the power unit needed to be developed.

“I think we just pushed ourselves so hard that we made a big step over the winter and, in a certain way, it's ironic that we got pushed so much by the ones that fell back in 2020.”

shares
comments

Related video

Todt not expecting "a normal F1 season" in 2021
Previous article

Todt not expecting "a normal F1 season" in 2021

Next article

F1 2021 car changes bigger than expected - Renault

F1 2021 car changes bigger than expected - Renault
Load comments
The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race Prime

The line Verstappen finally crossed in F1's first Jeddah race

OPINION: Max Verstappen has made the 2021 Formula 1 championship. He’s taken the fight to the all-conquering Mercedes squad and its dominant champion, produced driving displays few can match. But he’s been on a controversial course too, and finally crossed a particular line in Jeddah

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

An ill-tempered Saudi Grand Prix made Formula 1 more soap opera than sporting spectacle at times, but there were some strong performances up and down the field on the world championship's first visit to Jeddah

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series Prime

How the Jeddah F1 race became a one-sitting Netflix drama series

The inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was a race packed full of incident as Formula 1 2021's title contenders repeatedly clashed on track. Lewis Hamilton won out over Max Verstappen to level the scores heading into next weekend's Abu Dhabi finale, as Jeddah turned F1 into a drama series

Formula 1
Dec 6, 2021
The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance Prime

The impressive attitude that earned Albon his second F1 chance

Dropped by Red Bull last season, Alexander Albon has fought back into a Formula 1 seat with Williams. ALEX KALINAUCKAS explains what Albon has done to earn the place soon to be vacated by the highly rated George Russell

Formula 1
Dec 5, 2021
The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes Prime

The factors that could negate Red Bull's practice gap to Mercedes

Mercedes led the way in practice for Formula 1’s first race in Jeddah, where Red Bull was off the pace on both single-lap and long runs. But, if Max Verstappen can reverse the results on Saturday, factors familiar in motorsport’s main electric single-seater category could be decisive in another close battle with Lewis Hamilton...

Formula 1
Dec 4, 2021
Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer Prime

Why Norris doesn’t expect Mr Nice Guy praise for much longer

Earning praise from rivals has been a welcome sign that Lando Norris is becoming established among Formula 1's elite. But the McLaren driver is confident that his team's upward curve can put him in the mix to contend for titles in the future, when he's hoping the compliments will be replaced by being deemed an equal adversary

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention Prime

What Ferrari still needs to improve to return to F1 title contention

After a disastrous 2020 in which it slumped to sixth in the F1 constructors' standings, Ferrari has rebounded strongly and is on course to finish third - despite regulations that forced it to carryover much of its forgettable SF1000 machine. Yet while it can be pleased with its improvement, there are still steps it must make if 2022 is to yield a return to winning ways

Formula 1
Dec 2, 2021
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Prime

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Motorsport.com's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer Tim Wright explains.

Formula 1
Dec 1, 2021