Toto Wolff dismisses rumour about his absence

Toto Wolff has returned to the Mercedes garage after a string of incidents between the team’s drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has rejected the notion that the recent incidents involving his drivers were in any way connected to his absence during the Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix. 

Wolff, who had been recuperating from surgery, returned to the paddock for the first time in a month during the current race weekend.

In his absence, the Mercedes team experienced tumultuous moments on the track. 

At the last race, the team’s cars collided at the first corner, leading to Lewis Hamilton’s immediate retirement, while George Russell, who had started second, concluded the race in fourth place. 

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The Japanese Grand Prix also witnessed a close encounter between the two Mercedes drivers, with Russell accusing Hamilton of pushing him wide and later being instructed to let Hamilton pass.

Wolff addressed the perceived link between his absence and the on-track incidents. 

He asserted, “We’ve laughed about that too, in the team, but I don’t think it has an effect.”

Wolff suggested that the incidents might be a result of the team’s drivers frequently racing in close proximity at the front of the field. 

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“I think we are racing more in the front now,” he observed. 

“I think we have a sniff on how it is looking like, to have no car in front of you, with the McLarens and with Max there.”

He concluded with a touch of humor, “In any case, we’ll never find out. I’m back!”

The aftermath of the costly collision between Mercedes’ drivers in Qatar has been a subject of concern for the team. Wolff acknowledged, “There were some, let’s say, unpleasant situations that we have talked about. 

“And lots of points that we left on the table.”

Wolff recognised that such incidents serve as opportunities to recalibrate and recondition the drivers, helping them avoid similar situations in the future. 

He acknowledged the inherent competitiveness of racing drivers, stating, “But they’re racing drivers, they compete hard. 

“Your first competitor is your teammate. I see it with a relative relaxed terms.”

During his recent absence, Wolff remained closely connected with the team’s operations, albeit from a distance. 

He recounted his involvement, stating, “I was completely plugged in, I have a pit wall centre console set up at home. 

“So I was part of every briefing or debriefing and the conversations during the race.”

However, he also admitted that remote management required him to take a step back, acknowledging the limitations of not being physically present. 

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“But obviously, you’ve got to let the guys here fly the aeroplane because when you’re remote, I need to almost always take myself back a little bit because you’re distant, you don’t look into the faces, you don’t see what’s going on emotionally with the people around you. 

“And you feel in a certain way detached. 

“So it’s not something that I enjoy, but it was a necessity.”