Mercedes, in the 2023 Formula One season, has just grappled with their most dismal race yet, especially considering their history of triumphs. This certainly was the scene that unfolded at the Dutch Grand Prix last Sunday. Toto Wolff, the team’s commanding officer, made a solemn vow to conduct a comprehensive audit on what transpired and determine what went wrong.
George Russell, who commenced the seemingly promising race sitting pretty in third slot, harshly plummeted to a disheartening 17th place by the time the chequered flag was waived. Seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton, despite commencing the race in a modest 13th position lined up on unique tyres relative to his competitors, managed to scrape up a sixth-place finish.
Mercedes, shockingly, only scored eight points over the course of the weekend. This marked a historical first this season for the team who has consistently been claiming double figures each weekend. This was a stark contrast to the team’s performance in the previous year, where Russell secured second place at Zandvoort and Hamilton trailed close behind in fourth position.
“I think we stayed out catastrophically too long [in the first stint],” admitted a frustrated Wolff during an interview with Sky Sports television, “We got it completely wrong. And that’s annoying because the car had really pace.” Despite the disappointment, the focus was on recovery.
Chaos ensued from the onset of the race when an encounter with rain triggered several pitstops. However, Mercedes caught the short straw when their pitstop timing was woefully inaccurate. This left Russell’s podium dreams shattered as he found himself lingering at the disappointing 19th place in just 13 laps after changing to intermediates.
Russell, being the fighter he is, staged a comeback and impressively surpassed Lando Norris to occupy the seventh spot following the race’s interruption and subsequent restart. However, a misfortunate encounter with Norris leading to a puncture sealed his fate.
“We saw at the end on the inters George had [Red Bull race winner] Max [Verstappen’s] pace and Lewis was very strong behind [Ferrari‘s Carlos] Sainz…It’s still bittersweet because the result is just really bad”, shared Wolff.
Nevertheless, he pledged a meticulous review of the situation, attributing the poor performance not to any one person or department but rather a collective shortfall. “That was absolutely subpar from all of us and that includes me. It’s good when it hurts. When it stings, it sticks”, he added.