Wolff Admits to Being Stuck as Verstappen Dominates the Track

Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes’ Formula 1 team, has bluntly assessed the current F1 season as effectively concluded following Max Verstappen’s most recent triumph.

Verstappen, with an impeccable performance, claimed the pole position and recorded the fastest lap, securing his third consecutive victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.

This achievement mirrors the historic success of Michael Schumacher, the renowned seven-time world champion, achieved over two decades ago.

The victory was particularly sweet for Verstappen, as it followed a rare mechanical failure in Australia that marked his first non-finish in two years, propelling him 13 points ahead of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez in the championship race.

Reflecting on Verstappen’s dominance throughout this season’s grands prix, Wolff’s verdict was succinct, stating: “No one is going to catch Max this year.

“His driving and the car are just spectacular. You can see the way he manages the tyres and basically this season now is best of the rest. That’s the fight that’s on. Hopefully, we can catch up to the McLarens and Ferraris and fight for P2. This is what it is this year and what it was last year, and we had a P2 last year.”

At the Suzuka circuit, Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton secured the seventh and ninth positions, respectively, leaving the team in a challenging fourth place in the constructors’ standings, narrowly leading Aston Martin by a single point.

Ferrari has shown notable improvement from the previous season, especially in terms of tyre durability, which significantly contributed to Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc securing third and fourth places. However, Ferrari still trails behind the dominant performance of Red Bull.

Mercedes faces a tough challenge in aiming for second place in the constructors’ championship without swift advancements to their W15 car. The vehicle displayed some improvement in Japan, offering a glimmer of hope after a series of less favorable performances in the preceding races.

Considering the continuity of this year’s cars into the next season due to the upcoming shift in power unit regulations for 2026, Toto Wolff was presented with the notion that focusing on a future campaign might be more pragmatic.

Wolff acknowledged the predicament, stating, “If your expectation is to eventually race for wins and championships then you can say we are in a bit of a no man’s land because Max and Red Bull are far ahead, and we are in this bunch.

“It is not satisfying for any team to be fighting for P2, P3 or P4. If I was to look from a purely sporting point of view, P1 is what matters, not P2, P3 or P4, but this is the reality we are facing at the moment.

“We’re trying to make the best of this new reality, and that is to beat our competitors, whilst acknowledging that somebody is just doing a better job and setting a benchmark that we eventually need to set again ourselves.

“Our ambition is to win races this year, and I wouldn’t want to let that ambition go, certainly not for next year. In ’26 there’s a big reset which certainly provides the most realistic opportunity for any other team to beat Red Bull.

“But there are one and three-quarter seasons before that, and I don’t want to go through much more suffering in the next, whatever it is, 18 months. I just hope for highlights and a trajectory that’s going upward.”