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Wolff: Vasseur and Italy deserve Ferrari F1 success after 2023 troubles

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says Ferrari, Fred Vasseur and Italy deserve the Scuderia’s success in the Australian Grand Prix after the troubles the historic team endured during 2023.

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, 1st position, Frederic Vasseur, Team Principal and General Manager, Scuderia Ferrari, Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, 2nd position, the Ferrari team celebrate victory

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Having qualified second in Melbourne, Carlos Sainz - back from surgery for appendicitis that ruled him out of the Saudi Arabian GP - executed a lap-two pass on polesitter Max Verstappen.

With the Red Bull forced to retire with a right-rear brake failure, Charles Leclerc followed Sainz home for a Ferrari 1-2 - the first non-Verstappen win since Sainz claimed last year’s Singapore victory.

That marked a major change of fortune from the 2023 Australian GP. Leclerc crashed on lap one before Sainz finished fourth on the road but dropped to 12th with a five-second penalty for causing a collision.

This proved especially costly since the field finished nose-to-tail after the red flag-strewn race was restarted on the final lap.

Wolff, a long-time friend of Ferrari team principal Vasseur, reckoned his rival team and Italy deserved the Scuderia’s success - with Vasseur having injured himself in the run up to the Melbourne event last year.

“First of all, I'm happy for Ferrari,” said Wolff. “I'm happy for Fred. He deserves that.

Watch: F1 2024 Australian Grand Prix Review - Ferrari On Top Down Under

“Last year, we were flying together and on the flight, Dubai to Melbourne [with] Emirates, he had a disc [in his spine] that jumped out and he couldn't sit or sleep. He was standing in the aeroplane for 13 hours.

“Then, one of his cars crashed out and the other one finished P4, and it looked disastrous. He had the pressure for all of Italy and now he's had a 1-2.”

Meanwhile, Mercedes endured a double retirement in Melbourne - courtesy of a power unit failure for Lewis Hamilton and a hefty shunt for George Russell in the closing laps.

With Hamilton switching to Ferrari for 2025, Sainz must search for a new seat and has been linked with Mercedes.

Wolff continued: “As much as I hate our situation, [Vasseur] deserves that. Ferrari deserves that. And Italy deserves it.

“Carlos deserves it - after not only the appendix, but also basically being told 'You're not here anymore'. And bang! You can see what some human power can do when it needs to.”

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Asked by Autosport about the driver search, Wolff said there was not necessarily any ‘knockout criteria’ against Sainz, and other suggested candidates like Verstappen and Mercedes protégé Andrea Kimi Antonelli, to already rule themselves out of the gig.

“The ones that are available or that could be interesting for us, they all have arguments in favour for them…” he said.

“It's a difficult choice because there it's not like there is KO criteria for one and everything points to the other one.

“So, I just want to do a step back and just monitor the situation because some of the guys you mentioned [Max, Carlos] may sign for other teams. So, just looking at it.”

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