Toto Wolff returns amid Hamilton-Russell tensions

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has returned to the team for the United States Grand Prix after missing two races due to knee surgery.

After being notably absent from the recent Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix due to knee surgery resulting from a training mishap, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has made a triumphant return to the Formula 1 scene at the United States Grand Prix. 

Wolff, whose absence fueled rumors of driver tension between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, shared insights into his recovery, the team’s performance, and the speculated rift between his star drivers.

During Wolff’s absence, it was observed that tensions flared between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell at both events. 

In Suzuka, the two came perilously close to a collision while battling for positions, followed by heated radio exchanges late in the race regarding team orders. 

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The drama continued at the Losail Grand Prix when the pair collided at the first turn, raising questions about the team’s dynamics.

Wolff, however, dismissed any notions that his absence had contributed to the driver troubles. “I don’t think so,” he said when questioned about it. 

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

He further explained, “I think we are racing more in the front now, and 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 [Verstappen] there. 

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“So, yeah, in any case, we’ll never find out. I’m back.”

Acknowledging the challenges faced by the team in his absence, Wolff stated, “There were some, let’s say, unpleasant situations that we have talked about, and lots of points that we left on the table – but there is nobody more aware than the drivers.” 

He emphasised the competitive nature of racing drivers, highlighting that their first competitor is their own teammate.

Wolff’s absence was not as distant as it might seem, as he detailed his efforts to stay engaged. “I was completely plugged in,” he said. 

“I have a centre console set up at home, so I was part of every briefing, debriefing, and the conversations during the race.” 

Nevertheless, he acknowledged the limitations of remote involvement, saying, “You’ve got to let the guys here fly the airplane. 

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“When you’re remote, I 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.”