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.
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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