Mercedes AMG F1 pretty much had it all their own way in Formula One for the best part of a decade but now the tide has turned and on a number of fronts. Lewis Hamilton appears to be delaying any decision on whether to resign with his once world beating team until the ‘new Imola car’ has had a proper run.
The Hamilton contract renewal was supposed to be just a matter of “a few hours in a room together” according to Wolff back in January and now the Mercedes boss admits it is matter of embarrassment to Motorsport-Total.com.
Wolff embarrassed over Hamilton negotiations
“It’s super embarrassing. Every three years, we know that we have this moment. And it’s like negotiating the financial terms with your best friend with a close friend. How do you go about it?
“Normally, you don’t have a situation like that. I want the best for him, but in this role, I need the best for the team. It may be the only time in our ten or eleven years that we’re together and our goals diverge.”
And its not just his star driver that concerns Toto Wolff at present as a number of Mercedes’ customer teams are flexing their muscles. It could be that the supplier of the most successful V6 turbo hybrid power unit I Formula One is set to see its stable reduced significantly as Aston Martin close in on a deal with Honda for 2026.
Another Mercedes’ customer team may soon deny Toto his demands despite being run by a senior ex member from Brackley and a close ally of Wolff.
Hamilton: “..have thought about Ferrari”
Sargeant average junior record
James Vowles who has been with Mercedes since the inception of the works team which emerged from the Honda and Brawn F1 days left suddenly over the winter to join Williams as their team principal.
The famous British F1 marque had decided upon its drivers for 2023 prior to Vowels being approached and somewhat surprisingly had appointed American F2 driver Logan Sargeant.
Sargeant does not have a single championship winning season behind him in his entire junior racing career. His best performance was a P3 in Formula 3 during 2020.
Further across four seasons in F3/2 and some 82 races Sargeant managed to win just five together with claiming five pole positions along the way.
Wolff pushes Vowles on Schumacher
By comparison the much criticised Mick Schumacher in the same amount of time won both F3 and F2 titles with 11 victories and 8 pole positions.
Having been ditched by Haas F1 after two years, Schumacher is now Mercedes’ reserve driver, the team with which his father ended his F1 career with. Now reports from Germany suggest Toto Wolff is trying to revive the F1 career of their young driver.
Sport1 are reporting that Logan Sargeant has been given a three race ultimatum that may see him ditched if his performances don’t improve.
The report suggests further that Toto Wolff is pressing his close friend James Vowles to take on Mick Schumacher as his replacement.
Ferrari engineer questions Vasseur appointment
Williams’ boss defends rookie
However, despite being power unit customers of Mercedes’ it appears Vowels may be prepared to plough his own furrow away from his former influential team boss.
Speaking to motorsport.com Vowles has come out in defence of William’s rookie driver.
“Logan’s here because he’s quick. And he is quick, he can deliver, but he has to start by just getting things controlled, delivering cleanly,” observed Vowles.
“In both qualifying sessions in Baku he made it to Q2. That’s the consistency. And that’s what we’re looking for.
Poor qualifying record damns Sargeant
Yet Sargeant has only made Q2 once this year and in Baku it was because of others’ failures. De Vries caused a red flag in Q1 which was followed by another caused by Gasly. This meant Sargeant only had to beat three others to make it into Q2.
Yet Vowles argues Sargeant is quick enough but needs more experience.
“What I’ve already explained to him is ‘you’re quick enough’. And then, ‘use Q2 to build your experience by almost double from what you’re doing at the moment’.
“And that’s what you’ll start seeing him deliver on. You’ll see that he’ll slowly edge up.
Hamilton advised “Get out of Mercedes”
Rookie bar tougher to reach this year
Haas F1 have learned the hard way the cost to the team in points and places lost in the constructors race due to rookie drivers. Yet the Williams’ team boss believes Sargeant isn’t far behind his experienced team mate.
“I’m not expecting him to be on Alex’s pace. Also he’s had a string of races he’s never even been to before.
“But even [in Miami], disappointed as he was, there was just three tenths between him and Alex [in Q1]. It just so happened that was seven cars. But three-tenths, that’s how close it’s getting now.”
The reality in modern day Formula One is that three tenths slower means you are nowhere. So yes the bar may be higher for the rookies to reach than two years ago, but with proven drivers with experience waiting in the wings the time new F1 entrants are given to prove themselves will get shorter and shorter.
Horner questions Mercedes upgrade “hype”
Sargeant brings cash to Williams
Of course in Sargeant’s favour is his billionaire uncle’s pull with potential sponsors and Williams have three new USA based partners for the start of 2023.
Finally Mick Schumacher may have been offered the vacant Williams seat on Merit had Haas and Steiner not dallied until the last race of the season before announcing the German was leaving the team.
Battling away in the Imola spray ☔️
A tidy couple of moves from Lando as he fought his way to a podium finish in 2021 👊#ImolaGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/NE3lZO1pSz
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 16, 2023