EXCLUSIVE: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff ‘lost his s***’ in furious row with Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner at a meeting of team principals in Montreal on Saturday – claiming rival chiefs are ganging up on him over drivers’ bouncing problems
- Toto Wolff reportedly ‘lost his s***’ at a meeting of team principals in Montreal
- Wolff claims his fellow team principals are ganging up on him over issues
- His Mercedes drivers have struggled with bouncing problems this season
- Wolff’s rivals are supposedly concerned by a ‘floor-stay’ Mercedes are running
Toto Wolff and Christian Horner were involved in a furious row during a heated team principals meeting in Montreal on Saturday.
The argument erupted over the bouncing problems that have beset Mercedes since new technical regulations were introduced at the start of the season.
One witness said Mercedes boss Wolff ‘lost his s***’ while another reported that he went into ‘full Abu Dhabi spec’ — a reference to the Austrian’s meltdown when Lewis Hamilton lost out on the title at the closing race in the Gulf last year.
Toto Wolff claims his fellow team principals are ganging up on him over bouncing issues
But someone else at the meeting, held ahead of today’s Canadian Grand Prix, thought Wolff made his argument powerfully but not excessively, and that neither he nor Red Bull boss Horner, who equally stood his ground, could be said to have won the day.
Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto was also drawn into the dispute, telling Wolff that he did not agree with him that the regulations needed rewriting. He said Wolff was making the request simply because Mercedes had not succeeded with their 2021 car.
‘It was a row on a different scale from any of the press conference spats we have seen before,’ said one source.
Wolff’s chief accusation was that the other team bosses were deliberately perpetuating a safety issue by sticking to the regulations, which have led to the Mercedes cars ‘porpoising’ — the phenomenon of a car bouncing hard on its suspension. In response to this accusation, Horner told Wolff to put his own house in order.
I understand Wolff’s rivals were skeptical about the circumstances surrounding an additional ‘floor-stay’ Mercedes were running on their cars in practice. The stay is a metal tube that limits the amount the floor can move, thus making the ride smoother.
In particular, some eyebrows were raised over how Mercedes could have designed the part so soon after an FIA technical directive (TD) was issued on Thursday. The TD stipulated that the stay was allowed for safety reasons.
Mercedes have won eight consecutive Constructors’ World Championships from 2014-2020
The skeptics privately wonder whether Mercedes were tipped off by the FIA in advance that the stay would be allowed. ‘How did they know?’ asked one senior team executive. ‘That’s the question.’
Some privately wondered whether Mercedes had a special channel open to them since their former executive Shaila-Ann Rao was appointed FIA secretary general for sport on a temporary basis at the start of the month. There has been no evidence produced that Rao acted in any partial way.
Mercedes removed the stay before qualifying, claiming it did not help them. The alternate theory is that they took it off fearing a potential protest on the arcane basis that the regulations trump the technical directive and the regs do not permit the use of an additional floor-stay.
After Hamilton qualified an improved fourth in qualifying, Wolff said: ‘This situation has clearly gone too far. Team principals trying to play political games is disingenuous. All of the cars, not just Mercedes, suffered in some way in Baku.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton has only finished in the top three once this season
‘It’s a fault in Formula One at the moment and it’s an issue that needs to be solved. Little manipulations in the background, Chinese whispers, it’s a bit difficult.’
Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer added fuel to the fire by saying his team could ‘not have engineered the stay in a day’. He added: ‘The TD came out when our chief technical officer was flying over, so it was quite late. We weren’t able to produce a stay here.’
By the way, there was also some action on the track. Red Bull’s championship leader Max Verstappen was dominant on a wet surface that finally yielded a dry line.
But perhaps the story of the afternoon was Fernando Alonso sharing the front grid six weeks shy of his 41st birthday. It is the first time the double world champion has managed the feat since 2021.
Carlos Sainz of Ferrari was third best, with Hamilton one place behind in a season’s best.
‘I can’t tell you how happy I am,’ said Hamilton. ‘Me and (trainer) Ange had the biggest hug at the back of the garage because we’ve both been working so hard.
‘On pure pace in the dry we’re still a long way off but to get top four in those conditions is awesome. A podium is possible.’
Charles Leclerc, meanwhile, will start at the back of the grid for Ferrari after taking a new engine.