Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has confirmed that he’ll be absent from the Japanese Grand Prix in just over two weeks, with the Austrian requiring knee surgery.
It’ll be the first race since the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix that Wolff has missed, with Mercedes having comically claimed their only victory of the season at Interlagos.
George Russell led a Mercedes 1-2 at the Brazilian GP last season, whilst Wolff watched from home.
He will be at the Singapore Grand Prix next weekend before jetting off to Austria, where he’ll receive a new ligament.
Wolff requires the knee surgery following a mountain biking crash during the summer break, which has left him unable to fully extend his left arm.
The accident occurred after Wolff’s leg “just snapped” after he tried to support himself on a difficult terrain, due to him not having a cruciate ligament.
“I rode over slippery rocks,” said Wolff. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t handle it, but I wanted to support myself with my left leg – and it just snapped because I no longer have a cruciate ligament.
“After Singapore I’m going to the Hochrum Clinic (in Austria), where I will get a new ligament. Then I can do everything I want to again.
“I’ll skip Japan, then it’s a free weekend after that. I’d like to be walking around in Qatar without crutches. Then it’s even possible that I can ski in the winter,” he added.
A replacement for Wolff in Suzuka has actually already been announced by the Austrian himself, as he recently revealed that ex-F1 driver and new deputy Mercedes chief Jerome d’Ambrosio would replace him when he’s not present.
It’ll give George Russell and Lewis Hamilton someone new to work under at one of the most eventful races of the season, where a surprise is often thrown up.
Last season’s Japanese GP saw Verstappen claim victory and his second consecutive Drivers’ Championship, in what were treacherous conditions.
The race was actually red-flagged due to the conditions in the opening laps, which almost resulted in Pierre Gasly driving into the back of a tractor at full speed, whilst it was trying to recover Carlos Sainz’s car.