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"Brutal" F1 Australian GP double DNF leaves Wolff struggling to see positives

Toto Wolff said "on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose" after his Mercedes F1 team endured a "very brutal" double retirement in the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton parked up with a power unit failure, the cause of which is yet to be determined, on lap 15 of a race won by Carlos Sainz after Max Verstappen retired with an early brake fire.

Meanwhile, George Russell wiped out two laps from the flag - believing his car to be unsettled by Fernando Alonso immediately ahead. The Spaniard was eventually penalised by 20 seconds for changing his driving style and slowing, which led to Russell rapidly closing into his dirty air.

This came on top of Hamilton chasing dramatic set-up changes to tame handling instability after he and Russell ran off track in practice. Plus, Hamilton was eliminated in Q2. The pair eventually lined up on the grid in seventh and 11th.

Given the Melbourne display during which Mercedes “massively lacked pace”, Wolff reckoned he wanted to ‘punch himself on the nose’.

The Mercedes motorsport boss said: “There were times in the race where we massively lacked pace. And then there were times at the end when you compare like for like, we were doing OK. Still not where we want to be.

“But you could see in the second stint, Fernando on the medium [tyre], we couldn't come anywhere close. The lap times looked like a second off the McLaren's.

“Then suddenly the last [stint], when we went for it, not worrying too much, the lap times were competitive. Not [a match for] Sainz. But it was much better.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Wolff also cited Mercedes, which had initially occupied first and second in last year’s Australian GP, having fallen behind early 2023 struggler McLaren and Ferrari.

The Austrian continued: “So clearly, we started the season in the belief that this car is better than it was last year.

“Then you look at last year and look at these guys - Leclerc crashed out and Sainz was fourth and got relegated to outside of the top 10 because of a penalty. [Now], they are 40s ahead of us.

“So, obviously on one side, I want to punch myself on the nose. But on the other side, it is also a testimony of that when you get things right, you can turn it around pretty quickly and you just got to continue to believe.

“But at the moment it is very, a very tough time.”

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Summarising the weekend, Wolff reckoned it was hard to immediately see any light at the end of the tunnel: “Tough to take. Super tough.

“I would be lying if I would say at any moment, I feel positive about the situation and optimistic.

“But you just need to overcome the negative thoughts and say we will turn this around.

“But today it feels very, very, very brutal.”

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