(GMM) Toto Wolff is missing in action at a 2nd consecutive grand prix, so he won’t be there to watch Max Verstappen secure his 3rd title in Qatar.
It means he will be absent for the moment in which key rival Red Bull’s Max Verstappen will seal in place his third world championship on the trot.
“I will congratulate Helmut (Marko) via WhatsApp,” the Mercedes boss told Osterreich newspaper.
“Despite all the rivalry, you have to remain a fair sportsman,” Wolff said. “The car, the team, the driver – they are the benchmark. You can only congratulate them.”
Wolff, 51, sat out the Japanese GP ostensibly for knee surgery, but had intended to be back in action this weekend at Qatar.
“The operation couldn’t have gone better,” the Austrian reports. “Maybe I just overdid it a bit with the rehab afterwards.
“In any case, my doctor said that long flights aren’t for me at the moment.”
However, Wolff – and Lewis Hamilton – said the team boss is still fully involved in the race weekend at Qatar.
“He’s obviously devastated that he can’t be here,” Hamilton said, “but he called during our meeting today and he’ll call again in the meetings tomorrow morning and afternoon.
“He still leads the team 100 percent,” the seven time world champion insisted, even though Wolff is being represented at the circuit by deputy Jerome d’Ambrosio and communications boss Bradley Lord.
“He’s worked incredibly hard to get this team to where it is today and he should be able to spend his days off without any problems,” Hamilton said.
“I’ve told him not to worry.”
Indeed, Wolff said he has actually “built a pitwall” inside his home so he can be “connected to the team and fully involved”.
That will be music to Hamilton’s ears, as he has been putting pressure on Mercedes recently to give him a much better car for 2024.
“We tell ourselves exactly that every day,” Wolff said. “The development curve has to be steeper than ever now.
“Because Red Bull is so far ahead, we are completely changing our car concept.”
Wolff said the Qatar circuit’s fast and many corners don’t suit the current Mercedes.
“I expect more in Mexico or Brazil,” he said. “By then I want to be fit and on site again.”