Verstappen would have been “solidly on pole” without error – Wolff

2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes Max Verstappen would have taken pole position for the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix by a comfortable margin had it not been for a mistake on his final attempt.

Although Wolff admitted Mercedes have made improvements to their power unit and the balance of their car since the Bahrain Grand Prix, he is certain Verstappen would have taken pole position had it not been for his mistake at Tamburello on his final lap.

Lewis Hamilton took pole position for Mercedes, with the Red Bull pair within a tenth of a second of him. “It’s clear Lewis’s lap today was very good,” says Wolff.

“We have worked hard to sort out some of the balance issues we had in Bahrain and I think we made a decent step there. The driveability of the power unit has gotten better and the track conditions obviously are very different to the ones in Bahrain. So all of that played a certain factor.

But if you one-to-one compare the laps to Red Bull, Max, without the mistake, would have been solidly on pole. Maybe not as much as Bahrain, but he would have been there.”

With Sergio Perez and Verstappen starting tomorrow’s race immediately behind Hamilton and on different tyre compounds, Wolff recognises the threat that Red Bull pose for the second successive race weekend.

“It’s an advantage they have,” says Wolff. “You would say normally that starting on the soft is probably not as good, but here it’s an offset strategy and it’s not much worse than starting on the mediums. So they have for sure the two cars, we know that it’s always an advantage, and then offset strategies gives them another shot.”

Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas will start eighth on the grid after he could only manage a lap that was almost half a second slower than the pole sitter. Wolff explained that the discrepancy between the team’s two cars came down to “a warm-up issue.” with their tyres. “We know exactly what it is and Valtteri knows.

“Both drivers had a warm-up issue at the beginning of the lap,” said Wolff. “In Q1, once we were able to give Valtteri a second lap on the tyre to bring in the temperatures, he was really very good. I think his second Q1 lap would have gotten him up to P4. But nevertheless, I think he’s in an okay position for the race tomorrow.”

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2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
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44 comments on “Verstappen would have been “solidly on pole” without error – Wolff”

  1. And Wolff again trying to make Mercedes the underdog.
    But is was a nearly perfect lap by Lewis. He always delivers when needed.

    1. Yes, that was a good job from hamilton, it’s sometimes “easy” in qualifying to see when a driver overcomes a slightly stronger car, and when you factor into perez not being a good qualifier and getting so close to hamilton and knowing verstappen is usually quite a bit faster and made the mistake, pole should’ve been red bull’s, hamilton that I noticed also did this in silverstone 2018, where he got on pole by half a tenth or something and both ferraris were there, while bottas was far behind, and ferrari had, if not all fastest sector times, at least more fastest sector times, so hamilton got on pole back then by putting 3 good sectors together.

    2. Even though even Red Bull’s own drivers themselves are saying that they should have beaten Hamilton, and were both kicking themselves because they made errors that cost them the chance to get ahead?

      Are you now going to claim that Red Bull are also somehow in on the act as well?

    3. But what Wolf is saying is correct – both Red Bull drivers should have been comfortably ahead of Hamilton, but both made mistakes when the pressure was on.

      While the Mercedes seems to have improved since Bahrain, the Red Bull still looks faster. Going to be an interesting race.

  2. I think on this occasion, taking Perez’s time into consideration, I would agree with Toto.

    1. Both Red Bulls should have been ahead. Perez also made a mistake, yet both of them improved on their second runs despite their mistakes. Hamilton didn’t make any mistakes on either lap and basically set the same time on each. That suggests to me that there isn’t anymore left in that car.

      Reply moderated
      1. Indeed. I have no idea why people are loath to accept Red Bull have the faster car this year so far.

        If Perez can be 0.035 close to Mercedes, then it is guarantee there is at least 4 tenths left in the car.

        Perez has never been known for his qualifying prowess.

        1. @kbdavies Because it doesn’t help with their chosen narrative(s)

          1 – Hamilton only wins because he has the fastest car.
          2 – Anyone could win in the Mercedes.
          3 – Verstappen is the best driver and would destroy Hamilton in equal equipment.
          etc.

          1. Spot on, cheers mate!

  3. He is certainly paying lots of attention to VER. Maybe he has a secret crush?

    1. That’s because Verstappen is the guaranteed heir to the throne for Lewis. Toto is simply crushing on his next driver.

      1. I think russel shouldn’t be overlooked, he’s potentially a verstappen\leclerc, just missing experience with a top car and the one race he drove he was awesome.

        1. Verstappen/Russell is the next lineup at Mercedes.

        2. Still think Russell was ambushed by Mercedes because he was too good.

  4. Bottas obviously never got the memo about the tyre excuse as he blamed the rear end instability for his lap….. you’d think after his driver got pole position toto would be praising him…. instead he is talking about verstappan making mistakes.

  5. Can anyone think of a person involved in any sport who consistently bigs up their rivals as much as Toto?

    1. @petebaldwin A certain 7-time world champion comes to mind.

    2. Verstappen is not Mercedes “rival”
      He is a future Mercedes driver.

      Big difference.

      1. I’m surprised by these comments, russel is a mercedes junior and he already proved himself at merc, don’t see why they should take verstappen, unless they want to go with 2 alphas once hamilton leaves.

        1. Russell is not a “alpha” driver, no matter how good he is. Never mind that Mercedes are taking Russell any way.

          The next lineup at Mercedes os Verstappen/Russell combo. Hamilton is leaving Mercedes at the end of this year, and Bottas probably is as well.

    3. @petebaldwin no toto should just mind his business

    4. @petebaldwin Het gets the question if they improved the car to be now faster than Red Bull’s. So he explains why he feels Red Bull still clearly has the edge.

      But sure, make it out like he’s just randomly shouting out these things.

      If you want an example of someone who is stating material deficit over and over and over …, how about Verstappen constantly pretending the engine was making the difference every race in 2020.

      The difference is though, Wolff is right. Red Bull still has a car probably half a second a lap faster. While Verstappen was clearly lying. Every actual analysis shows there was at best 1 or 2 tenths of laptime delta due to the engine.
      It was just Verstappen setting his car up with high downforce. Actually an Alpha Tauri was often setting the fastest speeds in speed traps with that so much slower engine.

    5. ETNZ! And they defended it in great style!

  6. The bit that will be concerning Mercedes most of all is that if Perez makes a decent start, his soft tyres may well catapult him into the lead and compromise the Mercedes strategy while Red Bull use Perez to help Verstappen jump Hamilton.
    Should be a good race – plenty of possibilities.

  7. How refreshing to have a track that breeds mistakes and small gaps that mean drivers make a difference. And Latifi ahead of 3 champions, Norris setting purple sectors in Q3, even if one was maybe tainted, I am pumped for the rest of this season.

    1. Yes, absolutely, norris’ performance must not be overlooked, he was on it at least since q2 being faster than the big guys with a mclaren that isn’t yet at the old levels, now in q2 the excuse was he was with softer tyres, but in q3 they were on the same tyres and he was really marginally out compared to stroll, whose time wasn’t deleted, and he was half a tenth behind hamilton, which is impressive, he was even on course for pole, before the last sector.

  8. “Give Max the same car as Lewis and he will destroy him” Well for two races in a row Max had the faster car and still Lewis is ahead. Easier said than done.

    1. Indeed! But I am sure Max will clean his act up soon. Very excited for every race this season.

    2. @amg44 To be fair, let’s make an apples to apples comparison. Easier said than done is of course correct, because as you say Max has had the faster car for two races, and the odd race in the past few seasons. LH has had the dominant WCC car for going on his 8th season worth of races, and has 13 years worth of experience on Max. If Max can challenge that dynasty this year, that is a huge feat.

      As we know it is about much more than the faster car. LH is part of the best driver/car/team combination. Max only just now has the car, and he and the team have to put it together like LH and team have been doing this whole hybrid era. Ferrari found out that they may have had a faster car, particularly in the first halves of 2017 and 2018, but they didn’t have the best driver/car/team combo and LH dominated the second halves of 17 and 18 in what became the faster car as the team sorted themselves.

      It’s actually quite a compliment to Max to be compared as a threat after 1 race weekend and 1 quali. And of course kudos to Honda and the team, for it takes the whole entity as a package.

      1. Fair enough @robbie, but it’s tiresome to hear the same arguments for Verstappen where people pretend he’s still “new” to F1. After certain number of years under your belt, I don’t think it matters any more, especially in quali where you just need to string together a fast lap with no mistakes.

        1. @rockgod Oh for sure but of course just new to having a consistent win capable car (presumably) compared to how fits-like-a-glove a car LH has had for so long. For sure Max has enough experience to take this car along with the team to the next level. It’s only just begun.

        2. Yes, definitely verstappen is now at his peak, so there’s no possible lack of experience excuse, according to mathematical models a driver peaks in less amount of years than verstappen has been in f1, but I am also very wary from saying hamilton is some kind of god like some people make it out, he had the best car of any driver on average across his career, started with a championship contender and still had a very competitive mclaren car and mercedes first year, then swapped to a dominant car for 3 years, then again the slightly best car, then joint-best, then back to dominant and now again joint-best, might be slightly behind red bull but it’s not huge.

          Verstappen so far had very limited chances to compete with hamilton, cause the car has been way too superior overall, however their battle reminds me about alonso vs schumacher in 2006, the old fox vs the new coming driver, and such an age difference is ofc an advantage for the younger driver, so if hamilton pulls it off this year, as long as red bull remains all year at mercedes level, like ferrari and renault in 2006, it’d be a big accomplishment, I just can’t trust the car balance to stay the same till I see it happen, far too often we’ve been hoping for a competitive season all the way lately, and it’s not like one of the 2 contenders suddenly pulls ahead, it’s always mercedes!

          1. @esploratore 2006 you said? Let’s see if HAM can pull a Schumacher Monaco 2006. “Oh, my fans know who I am…”. LOL.

    3. @amg44 Exactly. Also examples like Turkey 2020 or Hungary 2019, or all those Monaco, Mexico and Malaysia races where he fumbled.

      But then even Vettel won several WDCs. If the car advantage is consistent enough then the wins will inevitably come at some point.

  9. As I’ve commented before, it appears that the Red Bull is very fast, but very difficult to drive. It seems to me if you gave them several chances they’d put in great laps eventually and beat the Mercs. But both Red Bull drivers made mistakes, neither of them could put together a good lap for pole. So maybe the car is just too hard to drive.

    1. @slotopen The Mercedes is obviously much more difficult to drive. Just ask Bottas or even Hamilton who described it as “knife-edge”.

      Perez has never been that good at qualifying and Verstappen is probably finally going to understand that the pressure of fighting for a WDC has an effect.

      1. @f1osaurus Indeed – Verstappen is feeling real pressure for the first time in his F1 career. Not only the pressure of having to perform now he has the fastest car, but also the edded pressure of expectation. It’s easy to drive fast when there’s no real pressure and expectations are low.

        That said, Verstappen is clearly a top driver and it’s a very long season, so let’s see how it goes.

  10. Yes likely Verstappen would be faster than Perez and ended up on pole, but then Mercedes wasn’t really much faster than a McLaren either so doubtful they got the best out of it.

    1. @balue Norris was faster than both Mercedes in FP3 too. So yeah Mercedes wasn’t really much faster than McLaren. if at all.

  11. Max will begin to realise that been a world champion takes more than just a good car.
    Wolf could be right but at the end of the day Lewis pulled off the best qualifying lap and that’s all that matters.
    Hoping Lewis keeps it going all season and perhaps some of his haters will give him the credit he deserves.

    Reply moderated
  12. @f1osaurus They were as the race well showed

    1. @balue Yeah of course you lack the understanding of the difference between Q3 pace and race pace. Come on man, it’s really all not that hard to follow.

      1. @f1osaurus Says the guy who in all seriousness claims Red Bull was the fastest car in the Bahrain race because it had been fastest in free practice, lol

        1. @balue ROFL!!!! You mean the guy who said Red Bull had fastest car because they were fastest in EVERY session that
          weekend?

          Indeed, you must be clinically insane to disagree with him.

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