Toto Wolff reverses plans to skip Japanese Grand Prix amidst Mercedes’ struggles

toto wolff reverses plans to skip japanese grand prix amidst mercedes’ struggles

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff has changed his plans to miss this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix and, instead, will be in attendance at the race.

The Austrian team boss had been scheduled to miss the Suzuka weekend as a scheduled absence in light of the record-breaking 24-race calendar, but the Mercedes boss has changed plans to now attend the race.

Toto Wolff’s initial plans to skip Japan reversed

With such a lengthy season of travel ahead, Wolff had come into the season with the Japanese Grand Prix weekend scheduled as one he’d miss – he also missed last year’s race at Suzuka, as well as the Qatar race afterward as he recovered from knee surgery.

Wolff would still play an active role in the team’s weekend, working remotely from his home in Monaco, while his duties at the race track would be divvied up amongst several members of the senior management at the team.

But those plans have now been torn up – Wolff has changed his mind on missing the weekend in Japa.

According to Sky Sports F1, he will instead travel to Suzuka to lead his troops in person for the fourth round of the championship, as he maintains a “fluid” schedule that allows for changes throughout the season.

As CEO of the F1 team and the director of Mercedes’ motorsport programme, Wolff frequently has responsibilities and interests away from the F1 racetrack – something which isn’t the case for every F1 team boss.

Mercedes will be aiming to bounce back strongly from a tough Australian GP weekend, in which they went scoreless. Lewis Hamilton retired from the race early on due to a power unit failure, while George Russell crashed out in the final stages after taking avoiding action following “potentially dangerous” driving from Fernando Alonso.

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Mercedes have had a tough start to the season, despite the W15 car seemingly a much more pleasant car to work with than its two immediate predecessors.

Both Russell and Hamilton have praised the car for its handling abilities, but its setup window appears be quite narrow as Hamilton, in particular, has struggled to consistently unlock strong performances from it.

The team is yet to fully dial in the W15, leading to experiments with how best to set the car up – experiments that have resulted in mixed results.

“[Lewis] said that the car is the best in three years, he had so much rear downforce and he feels confident,” Wolff said in Australia.

“And we didn’t change the car, track temperature changed by five degrees, believe it or not, so that’s nothing – and the car transformed from something that was the best in three years to something that is undriveable.”

As for why that is, Wolff said the team haven’t yet got to the bottom of what’s causing the correlation issues between what their data is telling them, and what the car is doing on track.

“Well, we have no idea, that’s part of the issue,” he said.

“We have two and a half thousand people that work on these cars, half on the engine, the other half on the on the chassis, and we are looking at everything.

“And there’s something which our technology is not showing us because this window of performance is so narrow, where the aero works, or it doesn’t.

“The wind picked up in the afternoon. That plays a role, but we haven’t really been able to pinpoint it.”

“When I look at the positives, I think we took many potential root causes out of the equation,” Wolff said of Mercedes addressing the weaknesses of its recent ground-effect creations.

“We weren’t sure about our suspension. We weren’t sure about the stiffness of our gearbox carrier. We had a vibrating steering rack. All of those things have disappeared.

“But, fundamentally, whatever we see in the tunnel doesn’t correlate with what’s happening on the track.”

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