Mercedes made “big step forward” but aren’t fastest yet – Wolff

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen’s deleted lap time in qualifying showed Red Bull had the potential to take pole position, says Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff.

Although his team topped qualifying for the second race weekend in a row, Wolff isn’t convinced they have surpassed Red Bull in terms of outright pace.

“I’m not sure we had the fastest car, but we made a big step forward,” he said.

Although Verstappen’s lap time was deleted because he strayed beyond the limits of the track, Wolff suspects the advantage Verstappen gained was minimal, and he could have beaten Valtteri Bottas’s 1’18.348 pole position time.

“We had an 18.2 from Max that was deleted because of track limits,” said Wolff. “He’s probably gained half a tenth maybe, but no more.

“Then, on the other side, Valtteri had a very good first lap in Q3, so I would say we caught up a lot in quali, and may be on par. We think we have a good racing car.”

Wolff said the progress the team has showed at the third race of the season was down to “just crunching numbers, running in the simulator, trying to understand where the deficits lie and just grinding away, chipping away, dissecting all the gaps.”

“Contrary to what the belief is, there is never one silver bullet,” he added.

The team’s decision to switch from soft tyres to the harder medium compound during Q3 appeared to backfire as neither Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton improved their lap times. But Wolff doubts the decision was an error, as other drivers who repeated their tyre choice were unable to improve their lap times.

“We were on target to do a 17.7 on the medium and then we took the decision that we would see how the soft run would go in Q3, the first soft run, and then decide whether we take a medium or soft. Then the decision was taken to take a medium because the times were slow, the 18.3 that we had.

“In hindsight, was it the right decision? I have no idea. It is what it is, nobody can get really much faster on the second run, because as I said, Max was on an 18.2 and then ended up on a 18.7.”

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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...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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16 comments on “Mercedes made “big step forward” but aren’t fastest yet – Wolff”

  1. Good one Toto. Not very original though

  2. They did a 1.17.9 in Q2 and without the mistake to go onto the mediums + poor laps in Q3, they would have been miles ahead.

    1. The medium tire performance was impressing.
      So if they get a good start is will be a Merc 1/2
      If Bottas botches the third placed car has an advantage.

    2. Rb look quicker on the softs – so a clean lap from Max on softs in Q3 he’d take pole by a mile – 1st run lap time deleted, 2nd run held up by Vettel and driving conservatively due to no banker

  3. The wind seemed to make it impossible to be consistent, but at least it’s looking like Red Bull don’t have a .3s advantage any more. It’s a pity it’ll be a one-stopper tomorrow, but still we should get to see where they stand on pace now. On this track, at any rate. Ted’s saying the Mercedes gain is about driveability of the new engine, with its bulbous plenum.

    1. @zann 5 years later, retired toto claims we had to detune the new engine to cover up performance advantage in case they were to try and stop us again next couple years…
      I like this scene: mercedes keeping it close :)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIjQ_hBiZxQ

  4. You have to give it to Toto. He has managed the narrative amazingly since 2014, when they knew they were so far ahead. If you read all his comments throughout the years you would think they have been behind this whole time.

    1. @vjanik Yeah it’s beginning to be a standing joke

      1. I agree, but it seems to work on most media and moreover internally at his staff as well resulting in remaining laser focused for almost a decade. So while he is not fooling you & me he does get what he wants. Clever chap.

  5. A tenth here or there is irrelevant in this title fight, it’s going to come down to reliability. Losing a potential 25 points for a DNF is going to be hard to claw back.

    1. And Bottas is allready an engine down on the others due to the crash in the last race. Not that I think he would’ve been in the title fight anyway.

      1. No he’s not, they managed to save his engine after his collision with Russell last race.

        1. Well, goes to show that my local news sites are not reliable then. According to them Merc said it was a write off.

  6. They definitely look like they already have the best car. Their race pace always looked as good or better, ultimate pace was the biggest issue, and now they’re locking the front row.

    Hats off to this team.

    1. But the question remains : Who’s going to tell this to Toto?

  7. Meh, The Mercedes had the overall quickest time in qualy even if you take Max’s removed lap in account. It looked to me the circumstances were so heavily changing all the time with the wind, you can’t really make conclusions.

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