Max Verstappen Won’t Solve Toto Wolff’s Problems At Mercedes

Toto Wolff knows he has a job on his hands replacing the sport's most decorated driver of all time.

Max Verstappen Won’t Solve Toto Wolff’s Problems At Mercedes

Mercedes Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff has said the team must weigh up its options when replacing the outgoing Lewis Hamilton at the end of the season, suggesting they can’t simply employ the best driver on the grid to solve all their problems.

There was a poignant moment during the Australian Grand Prix last weekend; Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc had just secured a historic 1-2 finish in Melbourne, whilst Mercedes endured a torrid time as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell failed to even cross the finish line.

It’s was a stark reminder to why the seven-time World Champion is willing to walk away from the team where he has spent the majority of his career, to join direct rivals in the pursuit of his record-breaking eighth WDC title… and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff knows he has a job on his hands replacing the sport’s most decorated driver of all time.

RELATED: ‘Drive To Survive’ Creator Reveals Toto Wolff Was Embarrassed By His Appearance On Netflix Series

Mercedes has been a team in decline for the last three years, with Team Principal Toto Wolff and George Russell both admitting that this year’s W15 simply cannot maintain performance throughout a Grand Prix weekend to compete with their Championship rivals.

Of course, last season, the team still managed to claim the Best of the Rest tag behind the formidable Red Bull, but it’s apparent that through the off-season, Ferrari and McLaren have been able to implement the necessary upgrades to apply the pressure on Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez who occupy 1st and 2nd, respectively, whilst Mercedes have, well, gone backwards.

“It’s definitely not that evil sister or anything like that,” Lewis Hamilton said, referencing last year’s temperamental W14. “I do think we have an amazing car; it has a lot of potential in it. We just haven’t maximised it at the moment through set-up.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the key weaknesses lie in the team’s performance over the first three race weekends, although it’s clear the W15s are losing speed throughout crucial moments in the race; a smaller rear wing could contribute to a loss of downforce and therefore less grip in the corners, whilst a lack of practice sessions could contribute to an overall lack of cohesion within the team.

In short, it feels as though Mercedes is constantly playing catch-up to the rest of the grid this season.

Image: AP

Toto Wolff has said that this season will see a lot of experimenting for the team as he looks to regain peak performance and reach the ceiling of the car. It’s certainly not the news that Mercedes fans want to hear as they look to enjoy the final year of Lewis Hamilton’s exceptional drive with the German team.

But as the British driver admits to seeking pastures new, so too must Toto Wolff and Mercedes plan for life without their talisman… and it’s clear that Wolff has already begun the search for Hamilton’s replacement.

Speaking with Fox during the Australian Grand Prix, Wolff was opening the door for a sensational swoop of Red Bull’s star man Max Verstappen, amid the turmoil currently surfacing within the Austrian team.

“It’s the kind of relationship that needs to happen at a certain stage. But we don’t know when,” Wolff revealed about his plans to sign three-time World Champion Max Verstappen. “Yes [he is our number one choice]. I mean, you see what his performance levels are. But I wouldn’t want to discount the other ones too.”

“I think we’ve got to look at ourselves and [ask] what is it we can do with this car. Then it becomes much easier – whoever drives the second car, it’s become much easier for George [Russell] because he has the potential of being a World Champion and so much more. It’s the team’s problem to solve really, rather than looking for a silver bullet with an amazing driver.”

Image: Mercedes-Benz AMG

Wolff has already invested so much time into Mercedes’ second driver George Russell, and has lauded the young British driver as future Formula 1 World Champion since Hamilton’s shock announcement at the beginning of this season.

By signing Max Verstappen, Wolff runs the risk of derailing Russell’s measured progress to the leader of this team, and, whilst the Dutch driver represents the best possible replacement for Hamilton in terms of pure speed and performance, he isn’t the “silver bullet” and certainly won’t solve Toto Wolff’s problems at Mercedes.