Wolff denies struggling Hamilton will quit F1
"I see an upbeat Lewis when we start the day..."
Toto Wolff has denied that Mercedes’ poor performance so far in 2022 could push Lewis Hamilton into retirement.
The seven time world champion admitted in Melbourne that driving his new silver machine is "not fun". Worse still, the German team is "not making any progress" in catching up with runaway top teams Ferrari and Red Bull.
The biggest problem, he said, is the ’porpoising’ phenomenon.
"It’s the worst quality of a car I’ve ever experienced and we can’t get rid of it," Hamilton admitted.
At the same time, Ferrari’s car is also violently bouncing around due to Formula 1’s new ground effect aerodynamics - but Charles Leclerc is dominating the championship so far.
"That’s true," Mercedes team boss Wolff said.
"But our bouncing is worse because we pull it into the corners. The difference is that the Ferrari only jumps on the straight.
"That is exhausting for the driver, but hardly costs them any time. As soon as the Ferrari turns in, the car is stable again."
While the porpoising is still such a big problem, Wolff said it "doesn’t make sense" to create "additional confusion" by bringing new parts to the car.
"It could even happen that the bouncing gets worse with more downforce," he said.
As for Red Bull, Dr Helmut Marko said the upgrade brought to the final Bahrain test solved the bouncing problem.
But porpoising is not Mercedes’ only problem, Wolff insists. "The weight, for example," he said. "And there are many other issues.
"The bottom line is that we probably won’t be able to fight for the world title this year because we’re running out of time. The car is seriously overweight and we don’t understand it," the Austrian admitted.
"We now have to see the race weekends as a kind of test in order to get the car so far that we will definitely be at the front next year.
"Developing a car like this is science, advanced physics, and somewhere we got it wrong," Wolff told Osterreich newspaper.
So with Mercedes effectively writing off the 2022 championship, and Hamilton recently admitting to struggling "mentally and emotionally", some are wondering if the 37-year-old will soon call it quits.
"Lewis is dealing with it positively. We’re trying to build each other up," Wolff said.
"You can only walk away if you don’t like what you do anymore but Lewis loves doing this. He is in fantastic shape, his lifestyle is hugely disciplined and he has many, many years to go."
Nonetheless, some observers say Hamilton’s body language is particularly downbeat at present.
"I see an upbeat Lewis when we start the day and then a downbeat Lewis when the session has gone worse than expected," Wolff admits. "I have had to stop thinking in terms of sessions and weekends, but about years.
"This needs to be a blip and not a long-term downward spiral. It will be a blip, and that is why we need to get it right now - not on the stopwatch, but mentally."