Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said his stern in-race message to Lewis Hamilton during the Austrian Grand Prix was simply aimed at getting the best result from a “bruising” weekend.
After running as high as fourth at the start of the race, Hamilton struggled for performance over the 71 laps at the Red Bull Ring and received a penalty after just 17 laps for exceeding track limits.
“This car’s slow, mate,” Hamilton said to his race engineer Peter Bonnington early in the race, before adding: “I can’t keep it on the track, the car won’t turn.”
During a battle with Sergio Perez for fifth place later in the race, Hamilton called on the stewards to penalise the Red Bull driver for track limits violations.
Wolff, who rarely talks to his drivers over team radio, replied: “Lewis the car is bad, we know. Please drive it.”
Asked to explain the message during a press conference after the race, Wolff said: “It is only for the best interest of the drivers and the team.
“Sometimes there is a certain moment where you need to calm things down. But I mean well.
“We had a lot of discussion about track limits and whether they were enforced or not and I just felt I wanted to make sure we were doing the best to get the most out of the package to make it perform and try to give it the best shot that we had.”
Hamilton dropped to seventh place at the finish, with teammate George Russell finishing eighth. It was Mercedes’ worst team result of the year.
“It was a bruising day,” Wolff added. “We couldn’t make the car quick.
“We saw it from Friday practice onwards that we were lacking a couple of tenths and that was the case today.
“The swings are quite interesting, one week it is us who is the first challenger [to Red Bull], then it is Ferrari and then it is Aston Martin.
“This time we were on the back end of that group and you are sitting there for 90 minutes trying to optimize the strategy or give the best support to the drivers, but if there is no inherent pace that is a tough 90 minutes for all of us.”
Toto Wolff explains stern Austrian GP radio message to Lewis Hamilton