Podium, Yas Marina, 2020

Even fully-fit Hamilton wouldn’t have beaten “quicker” Red Bulls – Wolff

2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton would not have won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix even if he had been fully fit.

Hamilton was back in the cockpit this weekend for the first time since he contracted Covid-19, which kept him out of the Sakhir Grand Prix. He admitted after the race it had been a “massive” physical challenge.

Both Mercedes drivers qualified and finished behind Max Verstappen, who won the race by 15 seconds. However Wolff does not believe Hamilton, who spent the race behind team mate Valtteri Bottas, would have been able to win even if he had been at full strength.

“The answer is no because – of course he wasn’t 100% and that’s always negative – but Red Bull, both cars were simply quicker than us this whole weekend. We never quite got it right.”

Wolff described the result as a “slap on the wrist” for Mercedes.

“Everybody has weaknesses and we weren’t on our ‘A-game’ this weekend,” he said. “That’s simply a fact, and Red Bull won fair and square.

“You can see that also Albon had a very good race. They had a very good race car and it shows that when their car is in the right place, both drivers [can] do really good job. Probably Albon’s pace was quicker than ours at the end so it could have ended even worse for us.”

Hamilton said Verstappen’s performance reflected the “true pace” of the Red Bull, and dismissed suggestions Mercedes had turned down their engines at the final race due to reliability concerns.

“It was the best I could do,” said Hamilton. “Congrats to Max, it’s a great result. Great drive from him all weekend and a great showing. Clearly Red Bull has a solid car.

“As far as I’m aware, we haven’t had any changes to our engine, so I think it’s just true pace from them rather than us taking a step back. They’ve worked so hard also through the year so congrats to him and his team.”

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2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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27 comments on “Even fully-fit Hamilton wouldn’t have beaten “quicker” Red Bulls – Wolff”

  1. Track position has always been important here, almost like Monaco or Hungary, but when you get close enough you can overtake due to the long straights, unlike in the two mentioned tracks where you need to have a huge pace advantage and to be really close to attempt a move.

  2. Oh come on Toto. Its obvious that what happened in the previous race with Russel made the team to wake up of the Zen scenario that you have the 2 best drivers. You don’t have the 2 best drivers, you have THE best driver on the grid with second a perfect guy to be second. This is a dream team that every boss wish to have.
    Now in today race that driver needed a moral boost to be in place for next year. Hamilton in all the race today i think he had his phone with him chatting with his girlfriend. He never pushed in the whole race and none but the after covid effects. The today result was a smart move from Toto with Hamilton help and kudos to them but they must stop thinking that we are stupid.

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      14th December 2020, 15:15

      @bluechris and why would they stop thinking you’re stupid when you keep demonstrating the opposite?

  3. If Mercedes qualified on pole position as they should have (they had the fastest car on Saturday), then they would have won this race through track position.

    1. Yeah, with pole they would have won easily

    2. @kingshark I don’t think that is quite right. A driver who is arguably the greatest qualifier of all time and a second driver who regularly runs him close both couldn’t get the job done on Saturday. It was tight, but I think Verstappen/Red Bull was the faster package last weekend. Not by much, but it was enough.

      1. The Mercedes was in all sectortimes faster the only thing they couldn’t made it stick in 1 lap. It was funny to see the sector times Bottas would be 1 and Lewis second and Max just a fraction behind Lewis.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          14th December 2020, 15:22

          @macleod That’s too simplistic an analysis for Abu Dhabi which relies on a car handling the balance change from front grip to understeer as the lap progresses and rear tyre overheating / front tyre scrub. There are a few tracks where to go faster overall you need to go slower in at least sector 1. Abu Dhabi is probably the hardest to get right. Theoretically the Merc is faster but in reality it wasn’t. Redbull nailed the set-up, Merc were left confused. Redbull got pole and won convincingly. The Merc was the slower car on both days.

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            14th December 2020, 15:24

            above was to @kingshark

          2. @davewillisporter
            Mercedes was fastest in Q1, Q2 and the fist part of Q3. Bottas made a mistake at turn 7 on the final attempt which cost him a tenth (and that’s why S2 on his final attempt was yellow). Max then stole pole in a slower car.

            I don’t think that Max beating Bottas by 25 milliseconds in a slightly slower car is particularly surprising at all.

      2. Yes, even though I never underestimate mercedes (strongest car for 7 years in a row) I think verstappen might’ve been able to overtake the mercedes had he not been on pole, since he had more pace, this was probably helped by hamilton’s form, I assume he’d have been closer to verstappen’s pace in normal circumstances.

    3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      14th December 2020, 19:39

      During practice whenever the Merc went onto the softs it didn’t work. Saw that in Q3 again. The car wasn’t set up to extract its potential and so didn’t get pole. The mistakes are as a result of the set-up as much as the driver. Even if I conceded that MNerc was maybe a tenth faster in qualy, in the race Max was driving away from the fastest of the two Mercs, being Bottas by between 0.4 and 1 second per lap, as and when he wanted to. Track position would be irrelevant given that delta. The Redbull to quote Seb “was racing was faster and won”

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        14th December 2020, 19:41

        @kingshark The above. Damn touchscreens!

        1. @davewillisporter
          For sure, Red Bull was the fastest car on Sunday. For whatever reason they worked their tyres better than Mercedes.

          However, my view on Saturday remains unchanged. Max would take taken pole regardless of whether he drove a Mercedes or Red Bull, in my opinion.

  4. Toto translator: please don’t replace Albon with Checo, we like having only one competitor.

    1. Its cool that no matter what others say you can translate/read between the lines/imply that it means exactly what you want it to mean.

  5. You mean *quicker Red Bull. The other one was saving tires for the second race I suppose.

  6. petebaldwin (@)
    13th December 2020, 21:12

    This is what happens when you try and give your slower driver a win at the end of the season but the opposition are a bit too close.

    1. Yeah, Bottas could not close the gap to Verstappen, but I think it’s strange that Lewis did not make one attempt to close in on Bottas, although I’m sure he could.

      1. I think Lewis let Bottas have it as Lewis had nothing to gain but Bottas could have lost second in the championship

        1. No, check the points, bottas would’ve been ok even if he lost 2nd place to hamilton and if verstappen had kept fastest lap, also hamilton tried to close in on bottas, went under 2 sec again towards the end, but just didn’t have enough pace to overtake, in fact albon seemed faster than both mercedes in the end, and verstappen was pulling away while managing his advantage while worried about the reliability of the car.

  7. Thing is, a guy who by his own admission was not fit could sit in that car and finish on the podium.
    That’s some mighty racing machine
    the likes of which we never seen

    1. Lewis Friday: “I’m fit.”
      Lewis Sunday: “I had fitness issues.”

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        14th December 2020, 15:28

        Proving once and for all, the driver ultimately makes the difference. The mighty racing machine didn’t win. One great driver did, the other great driver was suffering with health.
        It’s not just the car!

  8. But would Russel have?

    1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      14th December 2020, 19:11

      If you’ve heard the George / Bono radio exchanges during Sakhir it was nearly constant driver coaching. No way a guy that is still learning the car could have beaten Max in this race. Nope. George is an extremely fast and talented driver but he ain’t Superman!

      1. Russell was asking for help with various functions on the steering wheel because he had been in the car for 48 hours…

        Russell would have done better than Bottas in a Merc at Abu Dhabi.

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