Mercedes “got lucky” in Malaysia, says Wolff

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff says his team were fortunate to have as strong a result as they did in Malaysia.

The team’s fortunes fluctuated during the weekend. Having been almost a second and a half off the pace on Friday Lewis Hamilton took pole position on Saturday, thanks in part to Sebastian Vettel suffering a technical problem.

2017 Malaysian GP in pictures
In the race Hamilton was unable to keep Max Verstappen’s Red Bull behind but didn’t have to worry about the other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, which retired. He took second but was being caught rapidly by Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel at times during the final stint.

“It was clear after just a few laps that both Red Bull and Ferrari had better cars than us today,” said Wolff. “But we nevertheless managed to score a good number of points and extend our lead in both championships.”

Wolff said Mercedes “lacked a significant chunk of performance” at Sepang and “couldn’t have imagined such a good outcome” before the race.

“We leave Malaysia with a lot of question marks and we need to find answers to them in the next days and weeks, to ensure that we keep moving forward and racing at the front in the final quarter of this championship. We cannot get distracted by the fact we got lucky again this weekend.”

However Valtteri Bottas finished 45 seconds behind Hamilton in the team’s other car.

“Lewis did a fantastic job today to score P2 while Valtteri, just like over the rest of the weekend, struggled to match that pace and brought the car home in P5,” said Wolff.

“We know that gap doesn’t reflect his true level of performance, and it will be a priority for us to put two equally competitive cars on track next weekend in Suzuka.”

2017 Malaysian Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    23 comments on “Mercedes “got lucky” in Malaysia, says Wolff”

    1. At a guess Vettel and Ferrari turned a 6 point advantage at Singapore (VET 2nd, HAM 4th) into a 25 point deficit, and a 15 point advantage in Malaysia (VET 1st and HAM 5th) to a 6 point deficit. So without Vettel’s imprudent crash and Ferrari’s engine woes, Hamilton would be on 260 now, Vettel on 278. And the championship would be looking very much Vettel’s to lose. Instead he’s 34 points behind. Think those calculations are right.

      Even so, Mercedes need to pull a rabbit out of the bag to hold onto Hamilton’s lead.

      1. @david-br Sounds right, if we consider Hamilton’s freak head rest issue (13 points loss) that would be a five point gap (in Vettel’s favour) and fantastically poised for the last five races!

        1. It was actually an 17 point loss (Ham 5th to 1st +15 .. Vettel 4th to 5th – 2) leaving a 1 point gap

    2. Well, Hamilton did.
      With the pace order of the top 3 cars if Vettel’s engine hadn’t gone boom yesterday and Raikkonen’s hadn’t today, also factoring in Verstappen’s pace Hamilton would more than likely have finished 4th and Vettel 1st (given Ferrari’s slight pace advantage over Red Bull). That would’ve meant Hamilton’s lead reduced to 15 points rather than increased to 34.
      Not saying that Hamilton did not deserve P2 today, he absolutely set the track alight yesterday with the pole lap and drove a calculated race.
      If’s and but’s all round but for the neutral fan this race was just awful with regards to the championship.

      1. According to Hamilton, Mercedes calculated Ferrari were around eight tenths of a second a lap faster at Sepang with Red Bull also half a second ahead.


    3. @keithcollantine “In the race Hamilton was unable to keep Max Verstappen’s Red Bull” thanks to a d-rate problem, so it wasn’t like if he couldn’t keep him behind all by himself.

      1. And, as i understand from Ted kravits. Mercedes has a tactic to use the battery optimal during the first corners after the start. Resulting in a clipping battery when needed to long. Resulting in D rates or clipping.
        During the first stage Verstappen kept the pressure on Hamilton who had to use up all of his battery and was unable to resist the very committed attack of Verstappen.

        So, it was purely on tactics that Hamilton had to give up his place. There was a very small window when Ver started his passing manoeuvre to close the door. Not sure if it even would have worked, but very sensible of Ham not to choose that option.

        1. @seth-space Yes agreed, I think HAM focuses more on the whole picture, he learnt from the same GP one year ago where he tried to win the GP whilst a second place would have been enough for him to cliche the title.
          I think deep down HAM is worried about the MERC pace and he is already in damage limitation mode.
          Also I did not understand why he was talking about “operational problems” inside the team ?

          1. He was talking about the long wheel base that puts his car at a disadvantage in almost half of the tracks

    4. It’s arguable that Ferrari have had a better or at least equal car to Mercedes in 4 of the last 5 races (Hungary, Spa, Singapore and Malaysia) so, through a mixture of luck and good driving, Mercedes have done much better than probably
      even they expected:

      Points from the last 5 races:
      Hamilton: 105
      Vettel: 70

      Bottas: 68
      Raikkonen: 40

      Mercedes: 173
      Ferrari: 110

    5. Lucky they got Hamilton driving for them

    6. If I were Bottas I’d be a little bit annoyed that Wolff is heaping shade on him when Bottas was pretty close to Hamilton during the weekend, except after Hamilton ditched the “upgrade” package. That upgrade was as effective as a 50lb bag of rocks in the back of the car. They better check their wind tunnel correlation, or something, because that upgrade package was a disaster. Actually it seems that they need to go back to maybe the Silverstone spec and start over again, because the Singapore package wasn’t so great either, and they have totally lost the plot in the development race.

      The “luck” here is that Hamilton did an amazing job to stick the car on pole ahead of one Ferrari. If he didn’t do that job on Saturday both RBRs would have him for dead and Vettel would have gobbled up both Mercedes cars in the race. He also apparently made the call to stick with the old package after FP3.

      1. It is pretty clear that Bottas is annoyed with himself.

        There are a few interesting things that have not been commented on:

        1. In the post-race interviews, Toto suggested that Sebastian had to back off due to a need to save fuel rather than tyres. If correct, this would be the first time since 2015 that fuel restrictions have potentially impacted on the result of the race.

        2. Lewis suggested that there were particular corners that the Mercedes struggled in. Perhaps, Lewis was smoother than Valtieri on the car through these corners, and thus minimised the tyre overheating issue, which gave him better pace on the rest of the lap.

        3. I suspect that Mercedes made a decision very early on to save their engines, and not try to contest for P1. Lewis was very slow for most of the second stint, and then picked up his pace (by 1 second per lap) once Seb was on Daniel’s tail. Once Seb backed off, so did Lewis.

        1. According to Mark Hughes Ferrari under-fueled Vettel by 15kg so he could quickly make his way through the pack. I don’t really think that is the fuel restrictions coming into play.

      2. It was Bottas’ choice to stick with the upgrades.

        1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
          2nd October 2017, 8:27

          Yes, I did think it was. Hamilton chose to trick with the old setup which was the right decision. But I think it was worth Bottas confirming that this upgrade has only made things worse I think.

    7. Suzuka should tell us if this speed difference between ferrari and Mercedes is permanent, especially if its a colder race. If Merc are ahead even just slightly then I think they should have enough to cover the ferrari’s, however if Vettel is clearly faster than Merc next race then Lewis could be in trouble!

      1. The problem for them is Red Bull and its two excellent drivers with nothing to lose. If it was just Ferrari, then I’d bet on Hamilton finding a way past Raikkonen to second most of the time. But Red Bull have started to hit the groove at just an awkward time. It must be quite exceptional, in fact, to have a potentially front running team over the final of season (7 races including Singapore) with no actual stake in the championship, though perhaps able to affect the outcome hugely.

          1. @tango Good call, forgotten how chaotic the end of that season was.

    8. Cast your mind back to 2012, with 6 races left, Vettel was 29 points behind Alonso. With Red Bulls now potentially getting into the thick of the action, once Ferrari sort their act together Vettel could still turn this around. Goes to show what a good job Lewis and Mercedes are doing in maxing out their results.

      Hopefully the “swap” in Hungary won’t come to haunt Lewis in the end!

      1. Alonso blew it himself. At Suzuka he should have given Kimi more space but he was so desperate to go round the outside of a McLaren driver and got a puncture. Vettel got 25 points Alonso got zero.

    9. For the second weekend Ferrari have faltered when Mercedes were most vulnerable. The timing was very lucky for Mercedes.

      Breakdowns and crashes are sometimes just rotten luck. But they could also be the result of Ferrari and Vettel straining at their limit to catch a very good Mercedes team.

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