Toto Wolff, Mercedes, Monza, 2020

Mercedes frustrated by ‘other teams, F1 and FIA trying to slow us down’ with quali mode ban

2020 Italian Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted the team felt frustrated by the ban on ‘quali modes’, which it saw as an attempt to clip their wings.

Teams face new restrictions this weekend on how they can alter the performance of their power units between qualifying and the race. Mercedes was widely believed to gain the most through the use of ‘quali modes’.

Wolff said Mercedes “got a little bit frustrated with this decision because we have optimised our engine very much to perform near its limits in qualifying.

“That was one of the targets we set ourselves, especially for this year. And when this is taken away, it is obviously frustrating.”

While the FIA said the rules change had been made to make it easier for them to ensure power units comply with the regulations, Wolff believes it was done to improve the competition. Mercedes have set pole position for every race so far this year.

“I understand the dynamics in this sport,” he said. “It’s not the first time that teams that run away with a championship are penalised or were trying to be to be slowed down by the other teams, by the FIA and by the commercial rights holder. So I very much understand that dynamic.”

The ban on ‘quali modes’ is being enforced through a new technical directive. Wolff said this has motivated them to adapt their power unit to the changed restrictions.

“We, as a team, took it the right way in sportsmanship,” he said. “I remember Hywel [Thomas] who runs the engine group now [said] ‘OK, if that’s it, then we will be running qualifying mode all through the race next year’. And maybe sometimes you need this extra motivation to push yourself over the limits.”

Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul said today he is “very concerned” the new directive may not have the expected effect. Wolff believes “there may be an advantage of this TD” for Mercedes. “We will see how much we lose in relative performance to the other teams.

“But we are certainly sure that we will gain a lot of race time on Sunday because we can simply run the engine much harder. The damage metrics of not running qualifying modes in qualifying allows us to stretch the limits much more in the race. And that brings a lot of race time.

“So let’s see what it is. I don’t want to set expectations too high. But on Sunday, we will have a clearer picture.”

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Keith Collantine
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46 comments on “Mercedes frustrated by ‘other teams, F1 and FIA trying to slow us down’ with quali mode ban”

  1. If those practice times are any indication, then Mercs are really showing middle finger to FIA and rivals.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      4th September 2020, 16:21

      I think they usually cruise around in practice in the lowest modes knowing that they can turn everything up to 100% get pole and then go back to 50% and stay 5 or 6 seconds ahead of Verstappen for the race.

      This time, they’re having to test some of their stronger modes in practice in order to get things right so we’re seeing them go faster than they usually would do in a practice session.

      I don’t agree with the concept that Mercedes will be faster than they were before because of these changes – they will go as fast as they need to in order to remain comfortably in front of Verstappen like they have been doing all season. The only difference is they may have a bit more engine life available in the race as they can’t use their quali modes anymore. They tend to be limited by tyres rather than engine power though and they aren’t going to take more life out of the engine for the sake of it.

      They’ll qualify on pole but maybe it’ll be a few tenths closer than normal and they’ll control the race from the front trying to keep Bottas far enough away from Verstappen without forcing Hamilton to speed up.

      1. @petebaldwin the thing is, gaps around Monza have tended to be smaller between grid slots – if you look at 2019, the top six were within seven tenths of pole, and indeed the top four were all within 0.15s. If the gap is reduced, will it necessarily be because of the restriction on modes, or will it be because the circuit layout itself tends to result in smaller time gaps?

        Furthermore, how exactly do you know that Mercedes are only “testing some of their stronger modes” now, and that they have never used those modes in practice sessions in earlier races (e.g. during a qualifying simulation run)?

      2. But you have no idea what modes they use in practise. You came up with your analysis with no data, just thoughts. wait to tomorrow and Sunday please for a result of this, as no one can predict what will happen. Also, I woulldnt assume Verstappen following Mercedes this race. Ricciardo could be the likely follower of Mercedes this weekend not verstappen, you could see it in his deleted time and McLaren Renault power too.

    2. They do exactly that!

    3. GOOD!
      FIA Need the middle finger big time for this “tinkering”
      & moving goal posts in season.

    4. middle finger, they are cheating and they are the ones showing the middle finger…
      Merc hired some ex-ferrari engineers, they told merc what ferrari was doing with the engine, merc told the fia ban it or we will do the same, fia issued something in order to ban the ferrari exp!oit, whilst merc worked on a different loophole. Honda and ferrari commented on mercs “surprising” performance and now the fia tried something to stop it. If merc’s performance was all engine, no tricks, having a single mode would not hurt merc at all, in fact it could help them. we shall see.

      1. Seems rk have helped them if quali results are any indicator.

        Meanwhile, Ferrari are where they belong.

  2. The blatant activities against Mercedes are disgusting.

    Hope they sweep 2021 as well and show the shiny metal Bolt to FIA and other geniuses and quit.

  3. team principal Cyril Abiteboul said today
    he is “very concerned” the new directive may not have the expected effect . Wolff believes “there may be an advantage of this TD” for Mercedes. “We will see how much we lose in relative performance to the other teams.

    OH I thought the effect was the FIA being better able to monitor the engine usage but he seems to imply another desire of the FIA

  4. I understand his frustration but at least he points out this is not a new concept. Eg. RBR having exhaust blown diffuser work curtailed year after year, and then their 4 year run wiped out with the intro of the hybrid era, which Mercedes benefitted from very well thank you very much.

    1. You’re right @Robbie but if I recall correctly, this sort of thing has been done at the end of seasons not mid season which is my objection. It should not have been done mid season.

      One wonders actually what, if anything, Mercedes are doing so differently to the others. Ferrari obviously had come up with “something” but have ceased doing it for unspecified reasons, yet there doesn’t seem to have been quite the same scrutiny of the Merc PU’s even though they seem to be, and have been for a long time, vastly, and quite possibly suspiciously superior to the others.

      Clipping them, to me, is consistent with the past. It’s only the mid season timing that I’m not a fan of as it smacks too much of a performance penalty.

      1. One wonders actually what, if anything, Mercedes are doing so differently to the others.

        Hey, don’t you know, it’s their engine concept, since 2014. At least that’s what the armchair experts tell us. Weird that none of the other manufacturers found out about it and tried to copy them.

      2. Merc aren’t the only ones who have the Merc PU. If it was just their engines, their customer teams would also be as fast, because you are required to provide the same engine and support as you do your main team.

        The edge they have over their customers is they can design the engine and chasis hand in hand.

        Personally, I think Merc just landed on a good concept in 2014 and continued to improve it, keeping their lead while others chased them (sometimes getting closer like Ferrari until this year).

        2019 Merc in the form of RP 2020 is there and still could not consistently finish 3/4. Some of that is due to inferior driver and team sure, but that car should still be doing better than RP is doing now. The other teams are improving year by year mostly – just that so is Merc.

  5. “But we are certainly sure that we will gain a lot of race time on Sunday because we can simply run the engine much harder.”

    If the Pirelli tyres allow to do that…

    1. Power is most important on straights in modern f1, and tyres are least important on straights

      1. Not really, power on straigh line is not the problem. Running with a lot of downforce in fast corners is!
        You can even see the GP2 cheatfree Ferraris running the highest speedtrap figures.

  6. Let’s say they are .5-.6sec faster in race trim, then they can afford to make extra pit stop during the race and still finish comfortably ahead of Verstappen. Also if I remember correctly Mercs were on their 1st PU at Spa so now they are going to get faster and even more reliable as they aren’t going to be running their PU to max during qualifying. If anything this TD is going to be double blow to rivals.

  7. I don’t get the issue here, all engine makers have a qualifying mode, so it is equal to all. But is wollf implying Mercedes qualifying mode is better than Honda ferrari and Renault? I wonder if fia found something in their ‘mode’ which is questionable.. Each team is in the same position so I don’t get why Wolff needs to publicly accuse others unless he is guilty of something.

    1. Mmm…the plot thickens ;)

    2. @KpCart what a bad judgement you have, First Red Bull hinted they were pushing for the TD, second, NO not all party modes are the same, unless you think that all teams have the same Mercedes engine at the back. Lastly, if FIA found anything illegal with the Mercedes engine they wouldn’t have hesitated to ban them to satisfy Ferrari. Have you forgotten the findings of the illegal Ferrari engine and how cheating was covered by the FIA through a funny NDA?

    3. F1oSaurus (@)
      5th September 2020, 9:56

      Yes Mercedes have the best party mode. So what? Did you even read the article? Here let me help you:

      we have optimised our engine very much to perform near its limits in qualifying.

      “That was one of the targets we set ourselves, especially for this year.

    4. cotd. This “thing” is the exact same situation as ferrari’s thing yet the “fans” took a 180° as it affects Lewis and Merc.

      1. Nah, Ferrari was just plain cheating that they had to have a secret deal about it.

  8. Blaize Falconberger (@)
    4th September 2020, 16:44

    There’s no kudos in engineering victories off the track… it always leaves a bad taste especially when the courts are involved… raise your game rivals. Didn’t Mercedes innovate with the positioning of their ERS putting at the other end of the motor from the rivals thus freeing up space and providing room for additional aero? Whatever it was (I forget how Martin Brundle explained it back then) they have remained one or two steps ahead since. To catch up the other teams need to innovate, simply put.

    1. There’s no kudos in engineering victories off the track

      The car is engineered and built off the track.

  9. I don’t mind curbing quali modes for other reasons, but the decision to gang up on Mercedes for being too good and outlaw these modes could well be – if it misfires and puts Mercedes even further ahead, as always seemed possible – another example of the incompetence of the other teams, FIA and Liberty. Did they really not think it through? I don’t mind either way. Either we do get closer racing at the front, or the other teams will look doubly worse, which will be well deserved.

    1. Well said. I hope for a closer battle at the front, but a large part of me wants the Mercs to lap everyone – just for fun.

      1. +1 @david-br and @sham

        Always considered F1 to be a technical meritocracy. A constructor’s series first. While some stretches of dominance can wear on fans, it’s far better than going spec series.

        But it seems the FIA and Liberty just want to reward everyone with Participation Medals in the Great Race To Mediocrity.

        1. And so in order to keep it status quo and invite innovation, you’d manage that how? We’ve been having the great race to unsustainabilty for years, so is it just that you’d prefer to hope a 6 or 7 team series would work, and last, with the same team winning every race and season? That’s the preference? Because otherwise the alternative cannot possibly be anything but a spec series? Come on. Don’t be a cyn….never mind.

  10. Mercedes is about to clinch their 7th double championship, cry me a river Toto.

  11. I can understand their frustration at feeling ganged up on but given the extreme advantage they’ve enjoyed over the rest of the field for such a prolonged period of time, is it any surprise that attempts would be made to cut that advantage? When Ferrari and Red Bull had periods of dominance – which weren’t as crushing as Mercedes have been efforts were made to pull them back in or destabilise their advantage, so this isn’t anything new. And it looks like it’ll actually end up benefitting them so there’s little point in complaining.

    There’s certainly an argument that they shouldn’t be punished for success and the onus is on the other teams to close up, but clearly either the rules have not allowed that, financial restrictions haven’t allowed that or they’re simply incapable, so something has to be done. From a sporting & technological perspective this scale of utter dominance is properly impressive but as a viewer or prospective fan it’s catastrophically dull to watch. Seeing multiple teams and multiple drivers fighting for poles, wins and titles has to be the absolute goal.

    1. Well said! Put your flame jacket on, the Hammy fans will be all over you.

      1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
        4th September 2020, 19:47

        Hammy fan here! Where do I apply?

        Seriously though, I think @rocketpanda makes very good points…

    2. F1oSaurus (@)
      5th September 2020, 9:58

      @rocketpanda What prolonged time? Ferrari was just as fast if not faster in 2017. They were clearly faster in 2018. In 2019 they were about as fast (on average).

      It’s just this season that Mercedes have a clear advantage again. Mostly because Ferrari were cheating so badly that they have been degraded to a midfield team when their cheats were taken away.

    3. They should do it at the end of the year then, as opposed to midseason.

  12. Well Toto WE are frustrated with Merc and Hammy winning every week leading to boring and predictable races.

    1. it’s not their mistake is it? and not all of us are bored.

      1. No I’m sure if you love you some slobbery on the Hambone, you’re thrilled. The rest of us would like a race NOT determined on the first turn of the race.

        1. I glaze over everytime the front runners are shown and have for the last 4 years, and if it wasnt for the midfield and watching Mclaren slowly reverse their fortunes after hurricane Alonso i wouldve stopped watching and gone to watch the f1 reject series instead (Formula E)

      2. Blaize Falconberger (@)
        4th September 2020, 19:48

        I think it’s great! I suffered the Ferrari years and now I can enjoy the driver I follow winning and being peerless…

        1. petebaldwin (@)
          4th September 2020, 20:53

          @timeslides I’d love to watch Hamilton prove he’s peerless but sadly he doesn’t get to prove that. We get to see that he’s faster than Bottas every weekend and that none of the other cars are anywhere near as fast as the Mercedes.

          1. @petebaldwin

            Well if you objectively review Hamilton since his F1 debut it was always clear the boy was special. Alot of people moaning on here are the types who were tossing mud at him after he joined Merc. I remember all sorts of nasties being posted on here- “HAM will get the midfield car he deserves after Glock handed him the championship” etc etc. Now he’s on the verge of further greatness. I can appreciate some people wanting closer racing as do I- but F1 has, for the largest part since 1950 always been about the best car and driver combination.

          2. @petebaldwin We see Hamilton beating faster cars he himself driving in what was not the fastest car for that track or circumstances. In 2019 for instance Bahrain, Baku, Monaco, Canada, Hungary, Russia and Mexico.

            2017 and 2018 were two titles he won being consistently fast too. He didn’t spin and crash the points and therefore titles away like Vettel.

            He is peerless at the moment. Vettel clearly spins and crashes way too often. Leclerc is a good qualifier but drops back during the race. Verstappen shows speed, but he also still messes up too many race results. Like he should have won in Hungary and Monaco last year. Or all those Monaco, Mexico, Singapore and Malaysia races where Red Bull had the faster car before Mercedes got their car working in low speed. Ricciardo did win several of those though.

  13. What is most boring these days is seeing Max on P3 race after race.

    Think other guys like Daniel and Perez are more worthy of that place just as Merc worthy winners and runners up each race.

  14. FIA new “Technical Directive” aka as RULE Change mid season.
    After Monza. Mercedes will only be allowed to run with 3 wheels on their car.
    FIA will randomly decide which particular wheel will be omitted from the car.
    5 Minutes before each Race starts.

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