Toto Wolff accused of ‘kicking’ Mercedes engineers ‘in the whatnots’

F1 preview: A lap of the Bahrain Grand Prix

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Toto Wolff kicked Mercedes’ engineers in the ‘whatnots’ with his brutal take-down of the W14’s performance in Bahrain, David Coulthard believes. The Silver Arrows chief admitted the car given to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell for 2023 will not be competitive in the world championship chase. 

Mercedes endured a tough season-opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Hamilton finished fifth while team-mate Russell came seventh. 

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez eased into first and second, respectively. While Fernando Alonso enjoyed a podium-placed finish on his Aston Martin debut. 

It appears that there are several vehicles in a stronger position than the Mercedes this year, with Wolff conceding: “I don’t think this package is going to be competitive eventually.”

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The Austrian added: “We gave it our best go, also over the winter, and now we just need to all regroup and sit down with the engineers, who are totally not dogmatic about anything.”

However, former McLaren star Coulthard believes Wolff was harsh in his evisceration of the W14. He added that the criticism will feel like a ‘big kick in the whatnots’ for Mercedes’ design team, who spent the winter trying to build a vast improvement on 2022’s W13. 

“I think it was brutal. This car has only been alive for six days, a few days of testing, three days here. I don’t know where he’s coming from with that,” Coulthard told Channel 4. 

“But yeah, they’ve got a completely different strategy with the sidepods. They clearly have to try and follow the pack now. But that is like a big kick in the whatnots for the design team.”

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Coulthard also questioned whether Wolff was fair in his scepticism of the W14’s quality. Verstappen won in Bahrain with ease, but Mercedes could still be considered to be the best of the rest come the end of the season.  

“I think it will have confirmed that relative to the winning car, Max won that at an absolute canter,” Coulthard added. “Relative to being defined as best of the rest, potentially they are. Okay Leclerc didn’t finish but it’s not as bad as he sort of stated after qualifying.”

However, it comes after Hamilton admitted Mercedes were going ‘backwards’ and that Aston Martin’s surprise emergence makes the Silver Arrows the fourth-fastest team. The seven-time world champion said: “We definitely can’t fight [Red Bull] at the moment, they were much quicker than us, as were the Astons. 

“We’re the fourth fastest team now, as opposed to the third last year. We’re going backwards, [so] we really have a lot of work to do to close that gap.”

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