Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is unmoved by Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner’s jibe at him being a “tax exile” due to his residence in Monaco, stating that the Briton’s comments do not incite a reaction anymore.
Wolff and Horner became embroiled in a deeply personal battle as Red Bull battled Mercedes for the Constructors’ Championship in 2021, while Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton went toe-to-toe for the Drivers’ Championship.
Ultimately, and amid the controversy that had engulfed the entirety of the 2021 season, the Dutchman came out on top while Mercedes sealed their record eighth consecutive team’s crown.
Since that success, the Silver Arrows have moved Valtteri Bottas on and replaced him with former Williams driver George Russell.
Wolff has said he believes both of his drivers are better than Verstappen.
“Hamilton, George Russell and Max Verstappen. In this order,” Wolff replied when asked for his top three drivers on the current grid.
After his Horner’s jovial remarks around Wolff’s residence in Monte Carlo, he described the relationship between the pair as “professional,” insisting that while they are not best of friends, the 50-year-old is “not a bad guy.”
Wolff went with a similar summation of their relationship, labelling it “crisp.”
Asked specifically about the tax joke, the Mercedes boss, who took on his role following the departure of Ross Brawn at the end of 2013, said that he found it “neither” petty nor entertaining.
“His statements no longer trigger any emotions in me because it shoots in all directions,” he explained.
It was put to Wolff that the best way of assuming the high ground over Red Bull is to win races, but he maintains that the ultimate goal is to win, irrespective of who the opponents are.
“You are one of the competitors. Ferrari is one of them this year,” he said.
“Whatever colour is on the car – we have to try to perform better and beat them.
“We must remain humble. You can’t win every year. For me, it’s about meeting my own expectations, regardless of whether the competitor’s car is red or blue.”
Mercedes have faced several issues posed by the new technical regulations, and their struggles were epitomised by a fifth-placed qualifying position in Bahrain for Hamilton, with team-mate George Russell in ninth.
They ended third and fourth after a double reliability-related retirement for the Red Bull pair of Verstappen and Sergio Perez, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz took a one-two.
The 50-year-old concedes that the Brackley squad will have to try and capitalise on every opportunity to score extra points until they can find a solution to the fundamental issues affecting their challenger.
“We are currently doing damage control, 3rd and 4th place in Bahrain exceeded our pre-race expectations,” he affirmed.
“Our current deficits were clearly visible in the race. But until we can get the full potential out of the car, we have to use every opportunity to score points.”
Former Formula 1 driver Marc Surer recently told Formula1News.co.uk that he anticipates a better Mercedes performance at the more power-hungry Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend, and stressed he does not believe that Ferrari have made an altogether better power unit than Mercedes or Honda this season.