Wolff: Mercedes must "up its game" with driver communication in F1 qualifying

Toto Wolff says the Mercedes Formula 1 team needs to “up its game” in handling its drivers in qualifying, after another miscommunication incident.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Mercedes had looked on course for a decent result in the sprint shootout session at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday after Lewis Hamilton was fastest overall following the first run in SQ3.

But his hopes of turning that form into a pole position for the sprint were derailed after he and team-mate George Russell tripped over each other.

Hamilton ended up starting his final lap right behind Russell, who locked up at La Source and then lost momentum for the charge up through Eau Rouge – effectively meaning both of their laps were ruined.

Afterwards, as their incident left the door open for rivals to grab the top grid slots, both drivers admitted it had been far from ideal.

Russell said “it was a total mess” while Hamilton was left ruing what he felt had been a good shot at grabbing a front row slot.

Reflecting on the errors that were made, which have come after similar miscommunication in handling the timing of qualifying runs at the Spanish and Austrian Grands Prix, team boss Wolff said Mercedes needed to improve.

“When you see that he [Hamilton] was leading the pack before that last lap, it is clearly a problem for all of us,” he said.

“It's not that he's missed out on pole or a front row, but it is that the team has missed out on it, and it is all of us together.

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG, in the Team Prinicpals Press Conference

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG, in the Team Prinicpals Press Conference

Photo by: FIA Pool

“It's really a constant development and learning process. And I think with the badness that happened, I'm sure with what we discussed afterwards we've made a step in correcting that. But we've tripped up a few times now and we just need to up our game.”

Hamilton and Russell explained the incident was triggered by them not getting the information needed on how much time they had left to complete their laps as time ticked down to the end of Q3.

Russell said: “The messaging was we're really close to the line, and we need to muscle our way past people to make the lap."

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Hamilton added: “I think the communication was a little bit off, and when we did the slow lap, then we were supposed to go again.

“We got to the last corner, and there was like seven cars, and George and I were led to believe that we were running out of time. So that's why George went running up the inside, rather than just take our time and get our gap.”

Wolff thought that it was a sharpness in the dialogue between the pit wall and drivers that was central to the matter.

“I think between the drivers, both of them, and the interaction with the team, we just need to ramp up our game,” he explained.

“In these situations where it's about crossing the line, in tough conditions, we have just got to have some precision.

“Very quickly you can look very good and very intelligent, and then very bad. To give you an example, if these two didn’t tangle the way they did, Max would have missed the final lap.

“But having said that, it’s not that driver we should be focused on, but ourselves. We had the time to give them both a proper launch.

“And Lewis was on provisional pole the lap before and then ended up P7. So for all of us together, that shouldn't be happening.”

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