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Toto Wolff explains reasons behind Japan F1 U-turn decision

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff thinks it would have been the “wrong choice” to have stuck to his original plan and skipped this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

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

Photo by: Motorsport Images

As part of an effort to better manage his time amid F1’s calendar expansion, Wolff had planned to miss some of the flyaways – and Japan was one of those where he had originally intended to remain back at base.

But off the back of a troubled start to the 2024 campaign for his squad, which included a double DNF in the Australian GP, Wolff changed his plans at the last minute and elected to commit to the Suzuka weekend as well.

Asked by Autosport to explain his decision, Wolff said he felt it important to be with the team – especially on a weekend where it had planned some key experiments to help it better unlock pace from its W15 car.

“I had planned not to come to Japan because there's so much on back in Europe, things to do,” explained Wolff. “But then I felt not coming to Japan was the wrong choice.

“I think it's important to be with the race team also. It does me good also to be close to the action.

“We are experimenting with a few things and then being part of the team really gives me energy. I hope the other way around too. So that's why I decided against staying in Europe.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Mercedes’ difficult start to 2024 comes off the back of a fallow period where the German manufacturer has won just one race in F1’s latest ground effect era.

And having understood the errors it made with its previous car designs, and especially its ride height choices, Mercedes had high hopes that its W15 would finally be what was needed to close the gap to Red Bull.

So far that has not proved to be the case, but Wolff remains convinced that Mercedes has what it is taken to get back to the front.

“We're a sports team,” he said. “We've won eight times in a row and that hasn't been done before.

“You have periods where you struggle like any other sports team and you can't win every time, and that's why this is a super challenge.

“It's not a race, it's not one single season and then you come back out on top, and it is the third one in a row.

“But I remain absolutely convinced that we will be looking back in a few years and saying that was so tough but so important for the development of the team from maybe an organisational standpoint, from re-evaluating our tools and systems, which clearly don't work as good as they did in previous regulations.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

One of the issues that Mercedes is trying to get a better understanding of is why its real-life car is not producing the kind of downforce levels that its factory simulation tools say it should.

“There is a crook somewhere in the system because we're measuring downforce much more than we see on the lap time,” added Wolff. “And that's something that we have been struggling since those regulations came in in 2022.

“So, we are at the point now where we are trying new avenues in order to assess how we can really translate the performance that we see in the virtual world into the road, which we haven't been able so far to do.”

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