Mercedes was one of the teams most affected when the majority of the field suffered from so-called “porpoising” at the start of the 2022 Formula One season. The problem escalated to such an extent that the FIA intervened for safety reasons and introduced changes to the aerodynamics rules for 2023.
Some teams – including Red Bull – resisted. For its part, the world champion team caused controversy when it was found in October to have breached the cost cap in 2021. Some rivals demanded a harsher penalty than the seven million dollars and restrictions on aero testing.
In addition, there were also repeated debates about the actions of the reformed FIA race management. In the end, the federation abolished the rotation of race directors.
For Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, however, the 2022 season did not stand out because of this. Political disputes have always been part of day-to-day business in Formula 1, as the teams want to protect their positions, the Austrian explains.
Wolff: Have not argued more than usual
“It’s about protecting your own structure and I think we all do that by trying to stay on top or understand where politics is going,” the 50-year-old says.
“That’s pretty normal. I don’t think there is more or less of it. Everyone lives by their own standards, so to speak.”
“In that respect, it was pretty much business as usual, I would say,” Wollf points out.
The various conflicts in 2022 were also a far cry from the intensity of the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull the previous year, when their respective drivers Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen battled for the world championship.
Mercedes had no chance of competing at the front for most of this season as they could not get to grips with the revised technical regulations straight away, largely due to the aforementioned “porpoising” problem.
Even when it became known that Red Bull had breached the cost cap, Wolff was not among those who were loudest in calling for strict measures.
Wolff relies on scrutiny as a deterrent
That role fell instead to Laurent Mekies of Ferrari and Zak Brown of McLaren. Wolff felt that the sanction was probably “too much” for Red Bull but “too little” for Mercedes, and relied on the strength of the inspection system to deter teams from future infringements.
“Apart from the sporting and financial penalty, there is also a big reputational impact,” Wolff held in Mexico.
“That’s why I don’t think any team will step foot over the line, because you don’t want your own partners and your own team to be dragged into this.”
“We live in a transparent, compliant world. Everything needs leadership, sport does too. For sport as a whole, this is the real achievement of the whole process.”