Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has taken a swipe at rivals Ferrari, describing recent comments by the Italian team’s chief Mattia Binotto about the sport’s engine regulations as “another complete bullshit story.”
The Austrian rejected Binotto’s claim that other teams — not only Ferrari — were affected by technical directives last year which the Italian team blamed for their slump in form.
Speaking late Saturday ahead of this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, for which Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid for the 65th time, Wolff was clearly irritated by Ferrari’s claims.
“There was a clear regulation on power units that was clarified in Austin on what we are allowed to do and not, which was important,” said Wolff, referring to the 2019 United States Grand Prix where Ferrari’s hot streak last year came to an end.
“But nothing that was in any way surprising because if you comply to the regulations then that was clear anyway.”
Wolff said it was “ironic” that “we were pushed by some of our competitors to absolutely new levels”.
“It almost brought us to burnout last year to develop and innovate in a way to be competitive on the track.
“And here we go, I think we have made a substantial jump in performance from 2019 to 2020 because we needed to last year. And that is a little bit ironic for me.”
– Suspicions –
Ferrari had reeled off six consecutive pole positions and three successive wins before the Austin race last year, a streak that raised suspicion among rival teams that their engines were enhanced in a way that contravened some technical regulations.
The directive in Austin that was followed two weeks later by another in Sao Paulo focused on other technical aspects of power units.
The result was that Ferrari suffered an immediate drop in power output and speed, handing the initiative in the championship to six-times champions Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton went on to complete his sixth title triumph and starts Sunday’s Hungarian race on pole position ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, the embryonic championship leader. Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc start on the third row.
Binotto on Friday said the directives had cost his team performance and forced not only Ferrari to adapt, but most other teams.
This provoked Wolff who was adamant that his team has not, in any way, raised suspicions with the performance of their car and power-unit.
Some observers have noted, however, that white smoke rises sometimes from their cars.
Wolff admitted Mercedes had an unresolved problem and responded: “You can see that when the oil tank is filled up at the beginning, we seem to have an issue that oil gets out of the chassis.
“We don’t know where that comes from. It seems to be that when we fill it up to the top we aren’t in control of how much escapes.
“We have seen it on all the Mercedes engines and it’s something that we need to understand.”