1996 Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill believes Toto Wolff’s recent comments about Red Bull’s success show that “he’s hurting”.
Mercedes entered the campaign expecting to return to title contention, having slumped to third in the standings upon an overhaul to the technical regulations last season.
While Mercedes has managed to climb back up to second place in the Constructors’ Championship, the German marque has been unable to score a race victory amid Red Bull’s record-breaking unbeaten run in 2023.
After Max Verstappen notched his 10th consecutive win to set a new benchmark at the Italian Grand Prix, Wolff downplayed the achievement by brandishing it as “irrelevant”.
Following ex-F1 driver Martin Brundle’s criticism of Wolff’s remarks, fellow Sky Sports F1 pundit Hill deems the Mercedes chief’s recent outburst was out of character.
“It sounded a bit churlish and not very gracious, and unlike Toto because he’s usually very sporting,” Hill told Sky Sports News.
“I think he’s hurting a bit now. They know what it’s like to be dominated and they didn’t even get on the podium.
“They seem to be a bit stymied and can’t seem to work out what to do, but who can? Ferrari did a great job in Monza – it suited their car, I think – but it seems like everywhere we go, the Red Bull has got the upper hand and we’ve just got to sit and watch this unfold.
“Can Red Bull win every race in the season? That’s not beyond the realms of possibility.”
Although Nico Rosberg sided with Hill’s viewpoint, the 2016 F1 title winner reckons Wolff’s negative tone derived from being heavily frustrated at Mercedes’ lacklustre showing on Sunday at Monza.
“Toto got in a moment where he was not too happy about his own race team’s performance because they finished fifth and sixth,” Rosberg said on the Sky Sports F1 podcast.
“Finishing fifth and sixth miles behind Ferrari and Red Bull is not really the goal, so I think he was just a bit down, and that made his answer a bit darker and not quite as gracious as he perhaps normally would be.
“Because I think the right answer would have been: ‘Hats off and respect to Max and Red Bull for this achievement’.”
Mercedes elected to begin the year by retaining the zero sidepod concept it adopted last year, but an underwhelming opening round in Bahrain saw Wolff declare a concept change was necessary.
Since introducing a more conventional sidepod design at the Monaco Grand Prix Mercedes has emerged as Red Bull’s closest challenger in the championship.
However, the Brackley camp remains a substantial 310 points behind the reigning champions, with Verstappen’s points tally alone enough to keep Red Bull on top.