Toto Wolff fears over Red Bull are warranted – F1 is in grave danger

Max Verstappen led Red Bull to an effortless 1-2 win at the 2024 Bahrain GP

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The Formula 1 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix was only two laps old when F1 fans arrived at the disappointing conclusion that the sport is heading for yet another one-sided season with Red Bull and Max Verstappen on top – at least according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Once the Red Bull star moved out of DRS range from Charles Leclerc on Lap 2, somewhat effortlessly stretching out a 1.2-second gap, it was game over for the rest of the grid as far as Wolff was concerned.

Verstappen has rarely had an easier race than this, swerving across the finish line a massive 22 seconds ahead of his team-mate. He could enjoy getting to know the RB20 around the bends of the Sakhir circuit while Leclerc locked up multiple times in his Ferrari, falling from second to fourth.

Mercedes were 45 seconds down the road with George Russell coming home in fifth and Lewis Hamilton seventh, but it was a race where the Silver Arrows threatened to disrupt the order before familiar issues kicked in. Russell couldn’t make his hard tyres last and was passed by both Ferraris, while Hamilton suffered battery issues that limited his pace.

Bahrain GP 2024 winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull celebrates | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Bahrain GP 2024 winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull celebrates | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

But even if they were without underlying issues, it wouldn’t have mattered. As far as Wolff is concerned, the next 23 races will be a procession for the Austrian manufacturer, leaving the rest to squabble over the coveted No.2 spot in the championship. When asked if Red Bull were uncatchable, Wolff replied: “Unfortunately yes.”

Wolff’s comments spoke volumes and pointed to the worrying reality F1 is facing: that Red Bull could win every race this season. In fact, the 51-year-old went as far as saying Verstappen is in a “different galaxy” to the rest of the grid.

“Max is in a different league, a different galaxy,” Wolff told the press. “I think everybody else is pretty close – Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, I believe we are probably in a similar ballpark. We just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and I think we can manage our races even better.”

A taste of their own medicine

It was quite an astonishing comment, and one that shows a huge shift in Wolff’s mentality over the past two years. He would have never entertained the idea of Mercedes being bettered by their rivals in the past.

George Russell at 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix | Mercedes / Jiri Krenek

He has also previously stated that Mercedes are capable of attracting the quickest drivers on the grid if they wanted to. But his confidence has been knocked by Hamilton’s decision to leave for Ferrari, and now, Wolff doesn’t believe he could entice Verstappen to join the Brackley team.

“The driver will always choose the quickest car, that’s what it’s fundamentally all about. Red Bull is the quickest car,” Wolff said, with a hint of resignation.

Sympathy will be lacking from Christian Horner and Fred Vasseur, as it was once he who enjoyed Mercedes‘ unparalleled success. Now, he is getting familiar with the taste of sour grapes, rather than the luxury champagne that comes hand in hand with eight constructors’ championships.

His Mercedes team were immaculate in every strategy call when it came to beating other teams, making Ferrari look weak and rudderless, while Red Bull were their own enemies with a catastrophic Renault engine. Now, the Austrian can’t seem to find an answer to the engineering maestro that is Adrian Newey, Max Verstappen’s impeccable racecraft and Red Bull’s incredible pit crew.

It’s clear Mercedes have made a stride forward with the W15, as demonstrated by Russell’s third place in qualifying and Hamilton’s positive first impressions of the car when he has been previously critical. But they are still a fair distance behind F1’s dominant team, and 2025 could be even worse without their seven-time world champion Hamilton.

The bigger concern is whether F1 can afford to wait another two years before there is even a chance of Red Bull being caught with the introduction of the new regulations. If there are more repeats of what we witnessed in Bahrain to come, fans might feel compelled to switch off – and who could blame them?

The fact that one of the sport’s most respected figures already thinks the season is as good as over after one race is a shameful representation of its declining competitiveness. Something has to be done before F1 loses its loyal fanbase for good.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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