The Mercedes team appeared pretty grumpy during the entire weekend at the 2023 Formula One Italian Grand Prix. Despite announcing shiny new two year contracts for both drivers, there was hardly an air of champagne celebration from any of the media facing personnel.
Lewis Hamilton kicked off the weekend claiming he was unimpressed with the Records Max Verstappen was racking up and that the Dutch driver had faced nobody as good as the team mates Lewis had raced against during his seventeen year career.
Wolff accuses Red Bull of favouritism
Toto Wolff had earlier implied that the only explanation for Verstappen’s dominance of his teammate Perez was because Red Bull had designed their car to suit Max’s driving style.
This was quickly rebutted by Verstappen calling the comments from Mercedes’ boss “bullshit.”
Christian Horner also took a swipe at Wolff suggesting he had a “TOTAL lack of understanding” if he truly believed Red Bull’s championship car design process was based around one single driver’s requirements.
Red Bull Racing ratcheted up another record this weekend now having won fifteen races in a row, something Mercedes never managed even during their dominant years.
Mercedes record eclipsed by Red Bull
Mercedes best run of race wins was ten which they achieved several times during their eight seasons of dominance but it clearly pays into insignificance when compared to the ongoing streak.
Max Verstappen claimed the all time F1 record for a driver’s successive victories in Monza with his tenth race win in a row. By comparison Lewis Hamilton only managed five at best, achieved this in 2014 and in 2020.
The best run for a Mercedes driver was seven races in succession delivered by Nico Rosberg who had Hamilton not hit him from behind in Barcelona would have easily made it at least eight.
After the chequered flag which followed an Italian Grand Prix with thrilling racing moments and overtaking particularly around the outside of the Curve de Grande, a black faced Horner faced the media.
Churlish Toto dismisses Verstappen’s achievement
When asked whether he would like to congratulate Max on his record achievement, the Mercedes boss without grace had this to say
“Our situation was maybe a little bit different because we had two guys fighting against each other within the team,” he replied making another reference to Verstappen’s alleged lack of team mate competition.
“I don’t know whether he cares about the record. It’s not something that would be important for me, any of those numbers.
“It’s for Wikipedia. Nobody reads that anyway,” concluded Toto.
Wolff claimed Hamilton would “rewrite the record books”
Whilst utter contempt between Mercedes and Red Bull is ever close to the surface, Wolff’s dismissive response to Verstappen success is unsurprising. Yet his own words will damn Wolff as a two faced given his comments about Hamilton following his sixth title win in 2019.
Toto suggested Hamilton who was then within one race win of Michael Schumacher’s race win record would ‘rewrite the record books’ and suggests his driver was amongst the ‘all time greats.’
Further alleged ‘inconsequential’ Wikipedia has over three billion reads a year and is the place where Mercedes record eight consecutive F1 constructor wins are recorded.
But maybe nobody reads that historic record either.
Hill calls Wolff “unsporting”
Damon Hill F1 world champion in 1996 was quick to criticise Wolff’s comments and believes the ‘unsporting’ behaviour was driven by another lack lustre performance from his Mercedes drivers.
George Russell who started the race in Monza third, came home fourth some 23 seconds behind the winner Verstappen who nursed a mechanical issue in the latter laps of the race and was several seconds slower than his earlier pace.
Lewis Hamilton had a miserable afternoon losing places at the start due to his tyre strategy but finished the Italian Grand Prix in sixth but was 43 seconds slower than the Red Bull record breaking world champion.
Mercedes ‘hurt’ by lack of progress
“It sounded a bit churlish and not very gracious, and unlike Toto because he’s usually very sporting,” Hill told Sky Sports News.
“I think he’s hurting a bit now. They know what it’s like to be dominated and they didn’t even get on the podium.”
Toto Wolff had questioned Ferrari’s pole position on Saturday suggesting it may just be a ‘blip.’
“Whether they can really translate that in race pace tomorrow over the whole race needs to be seen,” the Mercedes boss observed.
Ferrari create thrilling Monza race
Yet Ferrari gave Red Bull the best run for their money in over a year as the top speed of the Red Car in the hands of Sainz, frustrated Max Verstappen behind until the fifteenth lap of the race.
Both Sainz and Lecerlc delivered a titanic battle for the Tifosi as they raced on the limit for the final podium position. Sainz clung on to third as the pair crossed the line both just under 12 seconds behind Max Verstappen.
Hamilton was fortunate to retain his sixth place after a clumsy move on Oscar Piastri for which he later apologised. The stewards issued the British driver with a five second punishment and a reprimand with two penalty points being posted on his F1 drivers’ license.
Damon Hill was full of praise for Verstappen who set another benchmark which may never be challenged again in F1,
Verstappen does things “no one has done before”
“He has achieved something no-one else has ever done, and the Red Bull team has won 24 out of 25 Grand Prix,” Hill said.
“They’ve won 14 races this year and it’s an incredible record, but you can’t just put it down to the car.
“This guy is special.”
“Throughout his career, from the moment he arrived in F1, he has done things no-one has done before, and he continues to polish off this season,” concluded Hill who is an admirer of Lewis Hamilton too.
Mercedes uphill battle coming in Singapore
Mercedes will faced a renewed challenge from McLaren and Aston Martin whose cars will suit the twisty streets of the Singapore circuit up next.
Things may get worse for the ex-world champions as their Woking rivals will regain their form in the ‘Monaco of the East’ which saw them outscore Mercedes for five consecutive races before the Italian Grand Prix.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 3, 2023