Toto Wolff Q&A: The Mercedes boss' post Russian GP briefing
Troubles for both cars, engines and customs up for discussion
By William Esler and James Galloway in Sochi
Last Updated: 19/05/16 11:40am
Toto Wolff addresses the media following the Russian GP and discusses Lewis Hamilton's recent car troubles, how he could now lose an engine, how Bernie Ecclestone helped with customs and more...
What was the problem with Lewis' car?
"The guys had a tremendously hard job overnight to take the car apart and put the car together and because we haven't identified the root cause yet it was important to put everything diligently together.
"During the race after the pit-stop we saw a sudden drop of water pressure which was continuing to fall and that looked like a terminal failure. We don't know the root cause yet, probably somewhere in the assembly or somewhere on the chassis side. It stabilised at a certain stage and Lewis carried the car over the finish line."
What do you mean the chassis side?
"I don't think it was the putting together, we saw a drop in the water pressure which isn't yet identified where it really comes from."
Could it be a leak?
"It could be a leak yes, most probably a leak."
Do you know what happened to Lewis' engine in qualifying and in China?
"No not yet. It was the same failure both times. We thought again that we had identified the reason and we haven't got the final assessment, that is all going to be flown back to Brixworth and analysed. Maybe the failure on Saturday was a consequence of the failure in Shanghai. But this again is a theory and I am not sure."
Do you feel at the moment like you are letting Lewis down?
"First of all of course we don't do it deliberately and the team has been abused on some of the social media and conspiracy theories are out there. My response to this is I don't even want to ignore this bunch of lunatics who would think that we would harm a driver, our driver who has been a double world champion for us, he hasn't let us down and we wouldn't let him down. This is a mechanical sport and these things happen.
"As a matter of fact we had a problem on Nico's car which gave us some grey hair during the race, a problem on the MGU-K drive. It looked at a certain stage that he wouldn't finish the race. We are pushing the limits on the chassis and the engine sides a lot in order to have a competitive car and this is why we are winning races, but also if you push the limits at a certain stage you find them."
What do you say to Lewis after days like Saturday? Do you apologise?
"The way we communicate here is that everyone apologises to everyone. We had a situation last year where Lewis apologised in the aftermath of the race for having done a mistake in the same way we did it. You cannot expect a driver who has just lost a shot at pole position to run around with a smile on his face, you need to accept that he is upset in a different way to how we are upset.
"Maybe for us it is a bit easier because the other guy is on pole. So yes I apologised and I said to him and told him that we are moving heaven and earth in order to get the parts to Sochi to let him start without a penalty from P10 and he said he appreciated the effort from the team.
"Obviously for him it is a very difficult moment because he is having that run of bad luck, first it is Valtteri who shunts into him, then he is trying to take it easy and loses the engine, then it is a Sauber that shunts him off and then today. So we are really working our backsides off in order to give him the best possible car, but sometimes you have a run of bad luck and there is nothing else but to be apologetic."
Are you concerned that Hamilton's water pressure issue could have damage the engine and have future consequences
"Yes, we need to analyse that the water pressure started to drop, then stabilised, then continued to drop, but it could be that the engine got a large slap and we need to find out if we can keep it in the pool or not."
How hurtful for the team is it to get such abuse from the fans given they've given Lewis one of the best cars in F1 history and two titles
"I think that it is very difficult to take people serious out there who are lying in their bed with their laptop on their chest and are just sending out those abusive messages. We are not taking that serious, you wonder what goes through people's minds.
"Lewis has won two championships with that team in the past and we are always trying to give him the best possible goal in any race. I think the response would be that you question what is going on in some people's heads."
Is it hurtful for the engineers who are being accused of sabotage and having people try to damage their reputations
"Yes and I think the reason I am being vocal about it is that I want to protect those guys because they are being hit by comments that are just inexcusable and unfair and abusive without any reason. If some of the guys read those comments they might take it personally and this is why I want to be very clear. We appreciate every rational and every true comment and we take criticism very seriously.
"We have a core group of fans behind us and sometimes if we just screw up you think that isn't the best we could have done and in the last couple of races we have made some mistakes and letting Lewis down with the engine is certainly one of them. We know that and feel that much more than anybody else. I think for some of the guys they take it pretty hard."
How did you manage to sort a charter flight and get it into Russia and the parts through customs so quickly
"Well it was a team effort from many people. Niki Lauda tried to organise the plane and the slot and we had various options at certain stages and had to choose which one would come in earliest.
"Paddy's assistant Nicole, who happens to be Russian, sorted out the airport and we got the plane, got the bit on the plane, got the guy on the plane and Bernie sorted the customs. The details were that the plane landed and within 90 seconds the box was in the car and on the way to the track so I don't want to know how he sorted that. He played a huge role in making Lewis start."
You had a huge advantage over Ferrari here. Was it circuit specific or are they not as strong as you thought?
"The track is very different, a very smooth surface and you can see that the pace from many teams was very different to before. Williams was very strong here, Red Bull not strong at all and Ferrari not as good as expected. So I think this is a circuit where you have to get it right in terms of mechanical grip and aerodynamic downforce, engine power plays a role. So I would say the blip in performance we've seen from Ferrari is Sochi specific."
You said you are getting failures by going to the limit, but you would have gone to the limit last year. Does it mean your engineers are now going into areas where it is much more likely to get these kind of failures?
"The longer the regulations stay stable the more difficult it is to find performance. As you know Andy Cowell and his team, he is 'Mr Performance' and he is pushing his guys to extract every millisecond out of that engine. Because of the stable regulations it becomes more difficult and you need to push the boundaries sometimes in order to find the limits and maybe this is where we are at the moment.
"But I have no doubt this is a group of great engineers and people and we are going to sort it. And fundamentally we have finished one and two so with all the grey hair we had during the race we still got a really brilliant result."
Hamilton defends Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton defends his team after more unreliability problems in Russia
Lewis lost about seven tenths at his pit-stop...
"He went a bit long and a bit to the right and on going out he apologised. When a car comes into the box it is not only dangerous, but because every move is optimised, when you are pointing with your wheel gun and the car is 50cm long you are at a strange angle.
"So that is choreographed in a very precise way and the car needs to be on a precise spot. In the heat of the moment it is as equal as possible."
Helmut Marko said whatever Mercedes car comes out of the first corner first will win the race. Will we see that through the whole season?
"No, I don't think that. Honestly, I am very happy about the performance we had this weekend, we were very strong, the team performed very well and I am happy about that. If Valtteri had had a good start and come out ahead it would have been more difficult for us.
"If you remember last year there were races, Budapest, Singapore, where we struggled much more than others. So I think we need to just keep our cool, continue to develop for each of the circuits and we learn as a team from the punches we received last year like Singapore and we've come out stronger. Sochi is one of those examples where we were able to apply the learning effects into the race setup and I am very happy about that.
"What is going to happen in the future I don't know. Ferrari are going to bring upgrades, Renault are going to bring a big upgrade to Montreal so let's see."
Every race live in 2016
Sky Sports F1 brings you every race live in 2016. Fast and easy online upgrade - click here