Mercedes ended up missing out on a last shot at pole amid a dramatic finish to qualifying in Italy, angering Toto Wolff.
Toto Wolff felt the qualifying chaos at the Italian Grand Prix was “not worthy of Formula One”, making all the drivers and teams involved “look like idiots”.
With the clock ticking down in Q3, the cars still in the session came out in a closely bunched queue to follow Nico Hulkenberg when the Renault driver opted to leave the pits first, all looking to secure an ideal slipstream for their final flying lap.
More confusion followed at Monza when, not wanting to be out front, Hulkenberg took to an escape road, prompting further jostling for position between the other drivers who all slowed down to avoid moving into first spot.
In the end, only Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc crossed the line in time to have the chance to set a final flying lap in an anticlimactic finish.
Leclerc was already in first position after the first runs of Q3 and therefore took pole at Ferrari’s home race ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
A frustrated Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports: “In 35 years have you ever seen anything like this? Me neither!
“That was not even worthy of a junior formula. The problem is everybody is trying to get a slipstream and it is a nerve game, ‘Who will exit first?’
“Then some that have exited first thought they needed to reduce the speed even more. Going through the chicane outside the track is just junior class and everybody looked like idiots.”
Asked if it was specifically Hulkenberg’s fault, Wolff suggested he was also unhappy with other drivers, with his Mercedes pair paying the price for being further back in the line.
On who he blamed, Wolff added: “Everybody who was in the front at a certain stage – Hulkenberg leading the pack out and then going through the chicane and then some of the other cars reducing the speed.
“Once you are out you are out – it was not worthy of Formula One.”
@F1 teams! Please make sure the spectators and fans can watch the show they were expecting and they pay for…
Yes, it was still interesting but we all wanted the final lap fight! pic.twitter.com/Al8qMhaPZo
— Luca Filippi (@LucaFilippiLF) September 7, 2019
Hulkenberg, who qualified sixth pending results of the race stewards’ investigation into the events of the out lap, explained why no drivers wanted to be at the front.
He said: “It becomes so obvious at the end doesn’t it. We’re all looking for a tow, when you drive on your own you lose [time] on the straights and you can’t make up that time hence we ended up with this situation.
“Of course it was a bit weird and strange. That’s what happens everyone starts slowing down and nobody wants to be first in the train.”
Red Bull’s Alex Albon, meanwhile, was unable to set a time and had to settle for eighth place.
“I’m sure it looks silly on TV and it feels silly in the car as well,” he said. “We didn’t even get to set a lap time. The Renault that went straight on caused all the issues. It ends up as a complete cluster.”
Lance Stroll of Racing Point was another to miss out on the chance to set a time in Q3.
“I was towards the front, then Nico was playing games trying to get me out front, and then afterwards other cars started over taking me – it just became a mess,” explained the Canadian.
“It was just a matter of time before the session was going to be over. I don’t really have a better explanation of that – it was a bad calculation. The only guy who got it right was Sainz.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 7, 2019