Mercedes suffered a massively disappointing Sunday at Spielberg, Austria after practice and qualifying had been so promising for the Mercedes AMG F1 team. But two car failures along with a big strategical error made it a day to forget for the world champions.
“It's a tremendously painful day for us, for me personally the most painful in six years,” said Wolff, after the team suffered their first double DNF since Spain 2016.
“We were one and two on the grid, Lewis had a fantastic first lap and then DNF-ing twice – and obviously losing the race under the Virtual Safety Car (VSC): it doesn't get more cruel for us.”
Valtteri Bottas, at the time running in second place, was out early as his car had enough after just 13 laps.
“The luck I'm having this year feels like a bit of a bad joke at the moment,” the Finn commented.
“My start was not ideal; I had quite a bit of wheel spin and there was less grip than we expected, so I dropped a few places. Going into Turn 3, I could recover two places and was back in second place.
“After that the car felt strong, we were running well, but then I suddenly experienced a loss of hydraulic pressure. There was nothing I could have done to prevent the DNF. We need to investigate and find the cause of the issues we had today, but I'm sure we will recover from this result. I guess it was just not meant to be today - but one day it will be.”
The resulting virtual safety car period saw almost the entire field make an early pitstop. Mercedes however opted not to pit Hamilton.
“We decided to leave Lewis on track for one lap, because we thought it would take longer to clear the car from its position, and be able to react what the cars behind us did on the following lap,” explained Wolff. “But the VSC cleared sooner than predicted; we simply made the wrong decision.”
The missed stop created lots of frustration with Hamilton, who repeatedly asked his team what had happened. This ended in the team's chief strategist, James Vowles, apologizing for the mistake. He also urged Hamilton to focus on the remaining race, rather than worry about what could not be changed.
But pushing hard on the soft tyres caused blisters and an inability for Hamilton to close the gap to the cars ahead. Eventually, he retired with a lack of fuel pressure.
Mercedes's Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin, summed up a disastrous weekend for Mercedes.
“We weren't reliable enough, we didn't make the right strategy call, our starts weren't good enough and we didn't manage the tyres as well as we could have done. We have a lot to improve by Silverstone and we need to put all our focus into remedying our weaknesses today.
“This is one of the hardest days at the race track that we have faced as a team but it's not the only difficult day that we have ever had. We know how to fix problems and we've always returned stronger than before.”
With the double DNF, Mercedes has lost the leading positions in both championships, having them over to Ferrari and Vettel.