Wolff denies being ‘intimidated’ by Binotto as he reveals Mercedes have changed design concept

Toto Wolff and Mattia Binotto are said to have become embroiled in a tense exchange in Canada in front of Netflix cameras.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff does not feel any strain from the heated debate he is having with other team principals over the “porpoising” and bouncing problems.

The new technical regulations brought in this season saw a return to the ground effect aerodynamic concept, and the subsequent low ride heights have proven a challenge for the Silver Arrows.

Both Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have been losing time on the straights due to the turbulence caused by the chassis with the unique sidepod design, and even after seeming to negotiate that, the floor of the car complained when they lowered it.

The impact with the circuit has affected the drivers physically as well as serving as a detriment to their performance, so the FIA stepped in for safety reasons.

They brought in a technical directive ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix weekend that states that teams will be forced to raise their ride height if their car falls foul of a limit set for oscillating movement.

READ: Piquet banned despite ‘wholehearted’ apology after racially abusing Hamilton

The governing body are collating data taken from the cars in Montreal, and a limit is set to be introduced at the French Grand Prix.

Depending on where the limit is, every team could theoretically be forced to raise their ride height, which would affect them in the corners, and this could cancel out the advantage Ferrari and Red Bull have worked hard to create over Mercedes by nailing the new technical regulations.

This reportedly led to a “heated” debate between Wolff and Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto during a team principals’ meeting, but the Austrian did not feel the sting of any of the 52-year-old’s remarks.

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“They were more like foam pellets from nerf guns,” joked Wolff in conversation with Kronen Zeitung.

He affirmed that he was “not at all” intimidated by Binotto or anyone else for that matter, adding: “I really enjoy the controversy.”

Wolff affirmed that he wants to be heavily involved in pushing for safety in the pinnacle of motorsport, so will not merely look on from a distance.

“At the moment I’m less on the balcony and a lot more on the dance floor,” he explained.

Mercedes are reportedly beginning to trial parts on their W13 car that will help inform their W14 in 2023 but, before they can put too much focus on that, they need to figure out why things are going wrong with the current iteration.

“It’s important to get the problems under control, then I can look at what the successor looks like,” said Wolff.

After Hamilton struggled to clamber out of his car in Baku, the Brackley-based side had to make some changes to ensure the safety of their challenger.

“We changed our concept because we can’t drive as low as we developed for,” he Wolff.

“If we’re going in the right direction now, and I believe we are, we’ll no longer be eight tenths down but a lot less, at least that’s my wish.

“It is important for us to get the bouncing under control, with or without the help of the FIA.

“Only fools are optimists, but Silverstone and Le Castellet suit our car better so let’s see what the stopwatch says, because it never lies.”

The seven-time champion’s demeanour was a lot happier after his podium in Canada to what we saw in the seven races prior, and he is using nasty comments in recent months from the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, Sir Jackie Stewart and Nelson Piquet – the latter of whom racially abused him – as motivation to push harder for positive change.

“He has zeroed in on new goals, it is a great joy to see that he is happy and completely on top of things, as we can see from his reaction to certain recent statements,” stated Wolff.

It is not just the racist comments from Piquet and the harsh criticism from elsewhere that Wolff was discussing, but “others too, things like that are simply superfluous.”

As for Max Verstappen, who dramatically beat Hamilton to the championship in 2021, Wolff was full of praise for the Dutchman, who has won six races this year, and he wants to see Red Bull’s fight with Ferrari go to the wire.

READ: Russell eyeing victory at British GP as Mercedes bring major upgrade package

“Max is in a league of his own with this car, you have to acknowledge that,” he affirmed.

“It’s not good for Formula 1 to have a world champion so early, so I would like to see a duel between Red Bull and Ferrari until the last race in Abu Dhabi.

“But it doesn’t look like that at the moment because Ferrari is beating itself.”

Mercedes have now gone 10 races without a win but, as they summon the resolve they showed from way back in the BAR and Honda days, Wolff paraphrased a line from compatriot Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“We’ll be back, and we’ll have a say a few more times this year,” said the Austrian.

“But it just doesn’t happen from one day to the next so we’ll let them play for a bit and then we’ll have the big comeback story.

“Reliability is definitely our highlight, but realistically, a lot has to go wrong at Red Bull to be able to catch up with them.”

Russell and Hamilton head into the British Grand Prix this weekend having scored five podiums between them so far in 2022, but they would love to produce a victory this time around.