Mercedes' public apology letter is knife in staff's back

Mercedes' public apology letter is knife in staff's back

13-03-2023 10:55 Last update: 16:28

Writing an open letter to your fans. It's a sign that you might be taking yourself too seriously. The fact that only Mercedes do something like this is telling and also not very crazy given their past, but in the meantime, it is starting to become a painful scene for the employees.

Apologies from Mercedes

On Saturday, a surprising and remarkable message appeared on Mercedes' website. The Formula One team published an open letter to fans apologising for the performance in Bahrain. "We won’t panic or make knee-jerk reactions" the apology letter ironically read after one Grand Prix. Uh... who is making knee-jerk reactions?

Internally, Mercedes don't assign blame either, saying: "You know us better than that". But indirectly, that is not true. The fact that the car and concept are openly criticised by both drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton and team boss Toto Wolff is a clear finger in the direction of the technical team. The rumours surrounding the return of James Allison are not for nothing. Technical director Mike Elliott and his team are indeed in doubt.

It is also not the first time the technical team have been mocked. After the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Wolff apologised over the team radio to Hamilton for having to drive in such a "sh*tbox". The fact that Russell drove that same car to the podium was not even mentioned. How will the average engineer at the factory feel about that comment?

Even after the season, Wolff spoke that way about his team. The 2022 W13 just had to be displayed as an example in the hall of the Brackley factory as a reminder of the mistakes made by all the employees. Good motivation? Or a knife in the back of your employees?

Wolff's approach

Mercedes dominated Formula 1 from 2014 to 2020 and were very strong at finding new challenges every year. As a result, they won more world titles in a row than any other team has ever managed. Eight titles in a row at the pinnacle of the sport is extremely rare. It was a monumental achievement, but dealing with setbacks requires something different from the management, and Wolff seems to have a little more trouble with that.

A letter of apology to your fans after a fifth and seventh place after the first race of 2023? Of course, it's not where Mercedes should be, but you don't see McLaren doing this either. Another great team dealing with a setback, but not with the delusions of grandeur that it should apologise to the fans. Williams would be on a roll if they followed suit.

Above all, it remains a knife in the back of its staff. Not only does this put added pressure on Elliott, but the workers who put many hours every day into improving that car will also read this letter. These workers need a clear goal, a way forward and, above all, confidence to move forward again. They have also seen that the W14 does not live up to expectations. No need to point that out to them publicly.