Mercedes qualifying tactics delivered “double whammy” to Ferrari – Wolff

2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes plan to maximise its drivers’ opportunity to run in a slipstream during qualifying handed a “double whammy” to rivals Ferrari, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

The team sent its drivers out at the end of Q3 to provoke Sebastian Vettel into following them, but then had the pair pull over at the pit lane exit while the Ferrari driver went by, leaving Vettel on his own at the head of the field.

Wolff gave a cagey answer when asked about the team’s Q3 tactics but admitted they had noticed a trend in how rival reams respond to the W10s being released for their final qualifying runs.

“You always need to evaluate between trying to get a bit of a tow effect and compromising your out-lap,” he said. “And you can see how wrong it can go in Shanghai for some of the cars that weren’t able to cross the line.

“So in each of the qualifying [sessions] we saw a bit of a pattern and everybody waited for us to go out. And this time we thought we’re going to try something else, and this is what we did. We decided it this morning.”

Wolff confirmed Lewis Hamilton had first call on the running order of the team’s drivers this weekend, though he ultimately lost pole position to team mate Valtteri Bottas.

“This weekend it was Lewis who could decide who was running first and for obvious reasons he decided Valtteri should be running first.

“But then when we were bunched up behind everybody else we didn’t expect so many cars going out right behind us, bunched up behind. Lewis and Valtteri’s out-lap were compromised and you can see that Lewis lost all the time in sector one and then had a really good second and third sector.”

While the Mercedes drivers had the advantage of running behind other cars, falling track temperatures also played into their hands, which Wolff called a “double whammy” for Vettel.

“The tow effect is massive. Between minimum tow following other cars within a few seconds, which can gain you between one and three tenths, and the mother-of-all-tows that can gain you around Baku maybe six tenths, it is a real disadvantage. Cars in front of you that cut a hole in the air is really good around here and advantageous.

“So it was a double whammy: [Vettel] was out [by] himself, no tow, and the ambient temperatures and track temperatures came towards us. At the end our car got better the colder it went.”

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29 comments on “Mercedes qualifying tactics delivered “double whammy” to Ferrari – Wolff”

  1. Seems as if Mercedes is turning their engines down in this years training sessions to hype the competition and blow a smoke screen over how large their advantage really is – after another Mercedes 1,2 victory tomorrow it must be evident for everyone that Mercedes will not be challenged really this year – I’m probably not the only one who is looking for another series to get my Racing fix…Not that I’m not impressed with Mercedes and all, but F1 needs to address the fact that only the teams with their “own” engine supplier has a chance of winning races.

    1. While Mercedes have a very fast car, its not like Ferrari haven’t been able to challenge them. Leclerc should have won in Bahrain and arguably would have been on pole today (the delay by his crash moved the advantage to Mercedes). Like last year it will be very track specific, some races Merc will be fastest, others Ferrari.

      At the moment, Mercedes are just doing a much better job than Ferrari in maximizing their results

    2. Only 1-2 because once again, the faster ferrari driver messes up & fails to maximise their car. This should have been a Leclerc pole.

      1. This should have been a Leclerc pole.

        Most likely not. Not impossible, but +0.3sec is quite some margin compared to the fastest Mercedes. There’s no real proof LEC would have been like at least +0.3sec faster than VET.

        1. There’s no real proof LEC would have been like at least +0.3sec faster than VET

          LEC was 6 tenths faster in Q1 and was (tyre adjusted) 5 tenths faster in Q2. Given Vettel failed to head Leclerc in any of the FP sessions either I’d say there’s no real proof Leclerc wouldn’t have been 3 tenths faster than Vettel.

          1. @mg1982 don’t let facts get in the way of your personal bias.

          2. That’s proof to you?!?! How do you know that Leclerc, unlike VET, did not extract most out the of the car right from Q1 and Q2 (not much being left for Q3)?!? There’s absolutely no proof that all teams will improve from a session to another session with the same amount of time. Plus, it happened before in the previous years that RAI performed better than VET until Q3, then VET… boom… destroned RAI! Every race and set of tyres it’s a new story. Look at LEC in the race, he was fast in the 1st stint, a disaster in the 2nd stint!

          3. don’t let facts get in the way of your personal bias.

            @ Tom: no bias at all, actually really trying to be impartial. At the moment, LEC did not prove he’s the horse on which Ferrari should bet all the time. BTW, I think I’m the 1st guy who said it here, last year, Ferrari should get rid of RAI and hire LEC for 2019, then given how things unfold… if necessary… get rid of VET at the end of 2019 and put all their effort behind LEC for 2020! So, go figure, no bias at all, I actually said before everybody else that Ferrari should not waste any more time with RAI and VET and give a chance to their best youngster as soon as possible. Thank God, it happened ( = they replaced RAI with LEC), but some more time is required before making a proper judgement regarding how good LEC is compared to VET.

        2. F1oSaurus (@)
          28th April 2019, 10:11

          @mg1982 Vettel didn’t go for the tow (which he later regretted) and, as Martin showed, Leclerc was much faster than Vettel before his crash.

          So, yes Leclerc could have been on pole.

          Actually if Leclerc had been there, Vettel would have gotten his tow and would have been 3 tenths faster and potentially ahead of the mercs himself.

    3. I noticed this trend aswell. Trying to be underdogs all but the last second.

      Then they win the races easy.

  2. But still interesting that the fastest car on track did not had a tow during his pole lap.

    1. Hehe don’t worry Erik… someday your boy might accumulate 5 WDCs, 75 wins, 84 PPS etc etc x

      1. Sorry, unable to follow you there. Any correlation between Bottas and “my boy”???

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th April 2019, 10:12

      Interesting in the sense that you can actually clearly see the car which gave Bottas the tow in that footage?

      1. You mean that small dot on the horizon..
        A tow needs some closer following. Like Gasly had in q1.
        Bottas did not had a tow.

        1. that was a very minimal tow (more breaking of air) it would really a tow if that distance was halved.

  3. Have got to love this in terms of vocabulary. LOL.

  4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    27th April 2019, 19:03

    Little bit of a dirty trick, but it worked. It didn’t look like Bottas had much of a tow on his way to 1st at all though. I think Norris was ahead but by quite a long way – I didn’t think the tow had such reach.

    If Mercedes do secure a 4th 1-2 finish – in whatever order, they can’t go into any further race suspecting they are slow. Though as it’s Baku, the chances of them getting that are lower than on most tracks.

    1. Smart though, to see the pattern of Ferrari knowing that their strategy will be awful and therefore copying Mercedes. As he said though, as everyone went out right after them, it almost didn’t work out, think Lewis crossed the line with about 5 seconds to spare and in doing so hadn’t prepared his tyres enough for sector 1.

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th April 2019, 10:18

      @rocketpanda Bottas had the perfect tow. Enough of a distance through the first half of the lap (where most corners are) and then close enough for a tow at the second half of the lap where the straights are.

      1. You seem to develop a own universe with your own set of nature’s laws. Bottas did not had a tow. Look at the footage in the link I placed. On the last straight far in the distance is a dot. Not able to give a tow.
        For a real tow the distance should be way less. About 500meters less :)

  5. I heard somewhere that you still have a tow if you’re 4 -5 seconds away.

    Not sure if this was the case with Bottas

    1. Gasly had a real tow in q1. Close following with less then 200 meters on the straight and less then 50 when his Drs came in
      You could see and hear the increased speed.

  6. At first I thought it was only Lewis that had messed with Sebastian’s head. That was the big advantage that Mercedes had on Ferrari. Now it feels like even Toto has gotten in to the head of Binotto. They outsmart and outperform Ferrari so often that surely they’ve given Ferrari an inferiority complex.

    The only way Ferrari can win is if they hire Toto and Lewis.

    1. @Todfod – based on the results lately it isn’t a complex:-)

      1. Melchior (@)
        27th April 2019, 23:47

        @todfod They need Ross Brawn back

  7. Mercedes didn’t pull aside to make Vettel first, Vettel did that when he past two other cars on the out lap. I believe both an Alfa Romeo and a McLaren were ahead of Vettel as they went by the Mercedes. Certainly he could have slowed up to get enough of a gap and get the tow from those cars on the final straight.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      28th April 2019, 10:17

      @dragon86 Yeah that was weird. Bottas got a great tow. So indeed it was Vettel’s own mistake not to go for that. Otherwise he could/would have had the tow which Bottas had.

      Probably Vettel was so taken aback by Mercedes throwing the dummy that the failed to think clearly

      1. You keep repeating a fake news. Bottas did Not had a tow.

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