Mercedes and their team boss Toto Wolff haven't exactly had the best of times in 2022.
They began the year off the back of their eighth consecutive world constructors' championship in 2021, and Lewis Hamilton's narrow and contentious defeat to Max Verstappen in the drivers' championship battle.
2022 brought a change of fortunes. New regulations have played into the hands of Red Bull and Ferrari, both of whom charged ahead as Mercedes and Hamilton struggled in the opening rounds of the season.
They have managed to fight their way back, and now look to be on a par with Ferrari. Speaking to the Financial Times this week, Toto Wolff revealed how he is approaching the downturn in form - and said that the recent struggles of Manchester United are something he is learning from.
Toto Wolff using Manchester United as example of what not to do
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has experienced previously unimaginable success with the team. He has led them to eight constructors' titles and seven drivers' titles since taking over in 2013, and has established himself as one of the faces of modern F1.
This year's struggles have required a change in strategy, however, as Mercedes struggle to get to grips with the new 2022 regulations.
In his interview with the Financial Times, Wolff revealed that Manchester United's demise after the departure of Alex Ferguson was something that he had studied, in an attempt to ensure Mercedes do not falter even further like their footballing compatriots have:
I studied why great teams were not able to repeat great title [runs]. No sports team in any sport has ever won eight consecutive world championship titles, and there are many reasons for that, and what is at the core is the human.
The human gets complacent, you are not energised in the same way you were before. You are maybe not as amibitious.
If you stop dreaming, you'll run out of purpose, in my opinion. That is not some kind of Instagram bullshit, that is something that I learnt from Niki [Lauda], that yesterday is irrelevant.
Manchester United's fall from grace over the past ten years has been astonishing, and it's only right that a manager as successful as Toto Wolff would seek to learn from their failings. It is now five years since United last won a trophy. It doesn't look promising for the season ahead, either, with Cristiano Ronaldo widely reported to want out of the club, rumours of dressing room rifts, and two shocking losses to Brighton and Brentford in their first two Premier League games.
FULL-TIME: Brentford THUMP Manchester United 🐝 pic.twitter.com/zPGjlF3jZ6
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 13, 2022
Fans are planning protests against the club's ownership ahead of Monday's giant clash with Liverpool in the league. Just nine years ago, United claimed their 20th English league title, setting a new record, but their decline has been sure and steady ever since. Wolff's assertion that he has studied United's failings (presumably both from business and sporting perspectives) as an example of what not to do speaks volumes of the dire situation at Old Trafford.
On the other hand, things have certainly been looking up for Wolff and Mercedes in recent races. Lewis Hamilton has now taken five consecutive podiums, and the last two races saw him and young teammate George Russell finish P2 and P3 on both occasions. Russell claimed pole position in qualifying last time out in Hungary.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 30, 2022
It looks like a second consecutive title is wrapped up for Max Verstappen, with his team Red Bull likely to claim the constructors' championship on top of that. Nonetheless, hopes will be high at Mercedes that they can, at the very least, work their way ahead of Ferrari and claim second in the championship.
No doubt Mercedes' early-season struggles will be a central focus of season five of Netflix's Drive to Survive. Despite being one of the biggest stars of the docuseries, Toto Wolff said to the Financial Times that he is not fond of the reality TV-nature of the show:
It is athletes in high-performance machines, it is about life and death. On top of that, we added Keeping Up with the Kardashians.