Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell followed by Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix

Toto Wolff says Mercedes’ Sao Paulo performance was ‘worst weekend in 13 years’

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and George Russell followed by Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz in the Sao Paulo Grand PrixMercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are followed by Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll and Carlos Sainz, who would all finish ahead of Hamilton. Russell was running in 11th place when he was told to retire in Sao Paulo

Mercedes’ Sao Paulo Grand Prix performance was their “worst weekend in 13 years”, says team principal Toto Wolff.

Lewis Hamilton finished eighth after an uncompetitive race while team-mate George Russell retired from 11th because his engine was about to fail.

Wolff said Mercedes’ lack of pace was “baffling” and “unacceptable”.

“We will have a fundamentally different car next year and this confirms that is the right thing to do,” Wolff said.

The worst result of Mercedes’ season came at the end of a week that started with the announcement that chief technical officer Mike Elliott was leaving the team.

Elliott was ultimately responsible for the radical and unique design direction Mercedes chose in 2022, and which they stuck with in 2023 against Hamilton’s wishes.

After returning to Formula 1 in 2010 as a constructor, Mercedes won every drivers’ championship from 2014-2020 and the constructors’ title from 2014-2021. However, they have won only one race in the past two seasons.

  • Verstappen wins from Norris in Sao Paulo
  • ‘Alonso masterclass burnishes the legend of one of the greatest’
  • Chequered Flag podcast: Sao Paulo Grand Prix review
  • Confusing’ sprint format facing change for 2024

Mercedes had headed to Brazil with optimism after Hamilton finished second in the previous two races in the US and Mexico, although he was disqualified in Austin for the floor being worn away too much.

Read More:   India register their first women's Test win over Australia with eight-wicket victory in Mumbai

Those performances came after Mercedes introduced a new floor, which they believed had provided a good step forward in performance.

“We are a proper structure, a solid team and that didn’t look like a solid team today,” Wolff said. “Interestingly, within three consecutive races, you are finishing a strong second in two and challenging Max [Verstappen] and then a week later you are nowhere. And I believe this is just not on.

“This car, the development has been more plasters we put on something not right, and it shows that it is so unpredictable that it can swing either side.”

Mercedes' George Russell drives into the pit garage to retire from the Sao Paulo Grand PrixGeorge Russell drives his car into the Mercedes pit garage to retire from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix

His remark is a reference to his belief that the current Mercedes is a fundamentally flawed concept with so many major issues that require a whole new car to rectify them.

Mercedes were at a loss to explain their lack of performance in Brazil, but both Wolff and Hamilton said they believed they had run the car too high on the bumpy surface of the Interlagos track.

That could be a legacy of their disqualification in the US.

The team also admitted they had run too big a rear wing in the search for grip in the corners, which had created too much drag on the straights. They were also suffering with excessive tyre usage, normally a strength of the car.

Hamilton said: “My guess is that the floor is not working, it is not sucking down and it’s pushed us to a higher wing and then we are massively draggy on the straights and sliding in the corner. We have to look into why that is the case on this rough circuit.

Read More:   Sale Sharks: Alex Sanderson wants Sale to become main rivals to Saracens

“The tyres were overheating slow on the straights, no grip in the corners.”

Wolff said: “We ran the car way too high and you carry that on. But that wasn’t the main reason for an absolute off-weekend.

“There is something fundamentally wrong mechanically. It’s not a rear wing or the car being slightly too high. We are talking a millimetre or two. It is performance but it is not the explanation for a total off-weekend.”

Hamilton has previously expressed optimism that Mercedes can make a big step forward over the winter but he remains concerned about whether they will be able to catch Red Bull, who have dominated this season with Max Verstappen.

He added: “All I can do is try and remain optimistic but the Red Bull is so far away that they are probably going to be very clear for the next couple of years.”

Across the BBC banner

  • Five million pieces of Lego lost at sea near Cornwall: 26 years after being washed off a cargo ship, the tiny toys are still coming ashore…
  • From the football pitch to the rainforest…: David Beckham and three friends embark on a Brazilian adventure

Across the BBC footer