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By John Floyd

Motorsport columnist

FLOYD ON F1: Wolff faces team order poser in 2023

An improved car could lead to some interesting team orders between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

2022 was quite a year for Formula 1, particularly because of the “new” car design, which brought serious aerodynamic issues for many, with the word porpoising becoming part of F1 vocabulary.

The team suffering the most was Mercedes because of the W13 actively replicating the marine mammal’s trajectory.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and George Russell soldiered on, with the latter seemingly managing to cope, finishing ahead of his team mate in the early part of the season.

So Toto Wolff’s recent comments are, to say the least, rather strange and somewhat degrading to one team member.

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In a recent interview, the Austrian is reported as saying Russell’s performance and season’s result is “irrelevant”.

Explaining this statement Wolff said. “They were not racing for a world championship.”

“They haven’t raced for victories apart from Brazil. I don’t think for any of the team it matters whether they finish second, third, fourth or fifth.”

It certainly mattered to Russell who said of his fist F1 season with Mercedes: “If I had been told that at the beginning of the season, I would have been incredibly proud and happy.

“After all, nine times out of ten, when you finish ahead of Hamilton, you probably become world champion.”

Perhaps these are prophetic words? Finishing fourth overall in the 2022 F1 Driver’s Championship, two positions and 35 points ahead of his teammate and taking the team’s only victory, is a significant first season result.

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Having admitted Mercedes had got it wrong with design of the W13, Wolff went on to say: “I’m not sure at all whether we can bounce back to a position where we can compete for the championship next year.”

“You need to acknowledge that the competition is strong but we will do everything in our power to set our objectives high and try to reach them.”

Encouraging words, but it could be a difficult year for Wolff particularly when it comes to possible team orders.

Apart from the seven-time world champion he now has an exciting young talent in Russell who could be pushing to make his “prophetic words” become an early reality.

The 2023 F1 season starts in Bahrain on 5 March.