Comparable to United’s long-standing reign with Sir Alex Ferguson, Mercedes seem to be struggling with their own inability to lead the field, after nearly a decade at the top
With a dramatic half-season behind him, Mercedes-AMG Petronas team principal Toto Wolff has shared an interesting secret regarding his plans to resurrect the Silver Arrows’ title hopes — and it involves troubled Premier League legends, Manchester United.
Between 2014 and 2020, Mercedes was absolutely indomitable. The team won seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles, six handed to Lewis Hamilton, while one dramatic 2016 title went to his teammate and longtime ‘frenemy’, Nico Rosberg. The tables were turned back in 2021, however, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clinched the championship — albeit in controversial circumstances.
This year, Wolff’s prospects for revenge haven’t quite played out the way he hoped. Mercedes started the 2022 season with one of their weakest cars in the modern era, with the W13 design plagued by the infamous porpoising phenomenon that took multiple races to get over.
Despite Mercedes dealing with an uncharacteristically challenging year, the team seems to have made headway through a focus on reliability and driver skill in recent races, which have seen them catch up to just 30 points behind troubled runner-ups, Ferrari.
One of the most common F1 images from 2021-22 was Wolff’s famous grimace, which made its way into plenty of memes and jokes across the last half-year. While the 50-year-old Austrian billionaire has not had much to smile about, Mercedes’ woes pale in comparison to Manchester United’s epic fall from grace across the last several years.
Wolff’s comment adds insult to injury for the team’s supporters, who were humiliated at an away game with Brentford last Saturday — a 0-4 loss that’s forced new manager Erik ten Hag to reconsider his strategies, as Cristiano Ronaldo dodges rumors regarding his potential exit.
With even billionaire Elon Musk joking about the state of the team, it’s a far cry from the team’s reign of victories under Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired manager who led the team to a stunning 13 Premier League titles during his 27-year tenure.
“I studied why great teams were not able to repeat great title [runs],” said Wolff to the Financial Times before citing United’s legendary spell with Ferguson.
“No sports team in any sport has ever won eight consecutive World Championship titles and there are many reasons for that, and what is at the core is the human. The human gets complacent. You are not energized in the same way you were before. You are maybe not as ambitious.”
At the moment, Wolff can certainly be proud of his team’s efforts. With newcomer George Russell recently netting a qualifying P1 and consistently making podium appearances, the future doesn’t look too bad for Mercedes, even if Red Bull might begin a title reign of their own at the end of 2022.
In the meantime, Wolff has directed his irritation away from the grid, and towards Netflix’s Drive to Survives series, which has recently resulted in a mass influx of fans and general viewership — propelling Formula 1 to the forefront of pop culture and media in markets it was never able to succeed in previously.
“In a way, we’ve never reached out to or excited American audiences. Formula 1 is a niche sport – it’s a high-tech, high-income demographic, highly academic,” he continued. “And then came Netflix, came Covid, and people binge. Started watching the gusts. And then all of a sudden we have such great momentum in America that no one expected.”
“It’s athletes in high-performance machines. It’s about life and death, and on top of that we added Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” said Wolff, pointing a finger at the oft-criticized reality TV show.
Wolff is set to return with his team to compete in the Belgium Grand Prix, which kicks off on the 26th of August.
Lead Image: Twitter/@MercedesAMGF1