Mercedes braced for a repeat of Singapore 2015 in “very difficult” qualifying

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff says the team expect a “very difficult” qualifying session this weekend, similar to their struggles at Singapore in 2015.

The team were over a second off the pace in Baku on Friday, blaming a lack of performance in slow-speed corners. Wolff concurred with the assessment of driver Valtteri Bottas, who said there is something “fundamentally wrong” with the car.

“You can clear see from the lap times there’s something fundamentally wrong,” he said. “We are trying to tune the car so it actually functions but we haven’t been able to do that.”

“We continue to see the issues that we have a strong race car but we are struggling to really nail it for a single lap,” he added. “Today was a day of data collection and analysis and definitely what we’ve seen in Monaco is a little bit of a prolongation into Baku that there are certain parts of the track where we simply don’t perform.”

Wolff said Red Bull’s flexing rear wing is increasing their performance advantage on Baku’s long straights.

“We knew that Monaco and Baku are not tracks that suit us,” he said. “They were very good in those twisty parts in Monaco so they are very good here too and Ferrari also.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin, Baku City Circuit, 2021
Pictures: Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice day one
“Then on the straights if you have a wing that gives you this additional speed, you have the optimum combination, against us. So you just need to to take it on the chin for here and try to give it the best performance and collect the most points.”

While Wolff believes the team will be more competitive in the race, he expects a tough qualifying session tomorrow. He likened the race weekend to their performance at Singapore in 2015 where, having taken pole position for all of the proceedings 12 races, they unexpectedly qualified 1.4 seconds off the pace.

“Racing is done on Sunday [but] I think qualifying can be a very, very difficult session for us,” he said. “Probably one of the most difficult I’ve ever seen. It reminds me of Singapore ’15.

“But we’ll take it on the chin. I believe we have a good race car so there is ground to recover on Sunday and then learn. It is what it is. We’re trying to go as fast as possible with the kit that is available.”

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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28 comments on “Mercedes braced for a repeat of Singapore 2015 in “very difficult” qualifying”

  1. Bracing for another insult to intelligence. Another slap to the face of the F1 spectator…

    and you wonder about declining viewers?

    1. isthatglock21
      4th June 2021, 23:36

      Lmao I can’t think of a single market where there’s really been falling viewers outside out switch to pay TV? Numbers have been growing for years now, even before DTS it was strong.

  2. They are certainly quicker than P11 and P16, but definitely not in RB-territory. The bulls seem to be out of reach for anyone this weekend.
    Mercedes struggles with tyre warm-up, just like in Monaco. The car is a lot faster in race trim a couple of laps into the stint and has very little degredation (unlike Ferrari).
    They might struggle to put in a decent lap in qualifying though, which would hurt them on Sunday.

  3. So much for Verstappen trying to claim Merc are fastest. Red Bull looks like a rocketship

    1. If you have 7 championships and the largest budget you are the favorite. Not even Toto W can make that dissappear.

      1. Ferrari have the largest budget-and being historical favourite doesn’t negate RB having a rocketship

        1. @amam Mercedes have played the underdog card way too many times when the situations certainly did not warrant it. That’s the reason why so many people are skeptical. It makes such statements really difficult to evaluate. I don’t know what to make of it, it seems genuine this time, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The Mercs were still generally faster in race trim so far, and I fully expect them to be back on top when the “circus” returns to more conventional tracks.

          1. The Mercs were still generally faster in race trim so far,

            RB had better racepace in Bahrain, Imola and Monaco–RB is a rocketship

          2. @amam How do you know if the Red Bulls were quicker in race-trim in Imola? Last time I checked, Hamilton only ran about 2 laps in free air while on dry tyres. And in the first stint, the gap was less than the second when Max pitted. And as for Bahrain, the Red Bull wasn’t necessarily faster. They just had the more optimum strategy. Hamilton had to do half the race on one set of tyres in a 2 stop race. Had Mercedes not prioritised track position over ultimate race pace, Mercedes was probably quicker given how easily Hamilton was able to stay in Max’s undercut window in the first stint.

          3. Agree with mashiat, I find bahrain race pace equal and imola equal or even potentially mercedes ahead, mercedes were slower in the race only in monaco so far, red bull was better than merc in quali though, and example a qualifying session like imola where hamilton got pole goes to red bull imo, given how close perez got, perez’s qualifying reputation and the fact he outqualified verstappen.

        2. Just the best drivers.
          And a Mercedes team in panic mode helps…

          1. Max isn’t better than Lewis and Perez is not much better than Bottas

        3. @amam
          RBR have a budget almost equal to Ferrari which is entirely spent on chassis alone and gets the engines for free from their title sponsor Honda.

      2. erikje, so what about the budget cap?

      3. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
        4th June 2021, 22:51

        The boy who cried Wolff

    2. Wolff going back to Singapore 2015? For Hamilton at least, why not go back two weeks ago to Monaco 2021? He was totally lost there too.

  4. Why is the flexi wing is an issue in practice or qualifying? DRS is in effect for those sessions anyway rendering the flexi wing issue moot. Flexi wing advantage should only be an issue in the race when one can’t use DRS unless within 1 second. Looking at the sector time, Mercedes deficit is everywhere, including front straight.

    1. Good point about the mercedes being down in every sector but as for the DRS it’s only open for a small part of the lap. The flexi wing, if it really offers much benefit, will give an advantage throughout the lap, basically on any straight part of track.

      1. Not just the straights. They can set the car up to maximise downforce on the twisty parts knowing they won’t be compromised on the straights as the flex will take care of it. So its winning all around the track.

  5. Mercedes Singapore qualifying struggle in 2015 have nothing to do with their pace. It was mainly down to them introducing a very sophisticated hydraulic suspension that didn’t work as expected. Mercedes were dominant that year in Monaco and Hungary (drivers errors kept them off the victory). The trick suspension was key performance element of the dominant W07 which featured a fully hydraulic front end.

    In Monaco Mercedes were not disastrous as Bottas qualified 3rd and Baku isn’t Monaco where it’s impossible to overtake and the race itself is usually dramatic. RBR hold an advantage over Mercedes in street circuits but Mercedes were flying in Barcelona which is usually a benchmark for the rest of the season.

    1. @tifoso1989
      It all comes down to Mercedes struggles of getting enough heat into the tyres for a single quick lap. On tracks with lots of medium and high speed corners it’s not an issue, but it is on those which only have slow speed corners (Monaco & Baku).
      I expect them to be back to normal form by the French GP.

  6. They’ll do just fine

  7. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    4th June 2021, 20:24

    It really feels like Wolff is already downplaying them losing races (and probably the entire season) because of Red Bull using a wing they missed out on. Just so they can say at the end: ‘Yes we lost, but they were using this wing you see, and it was illegal….’

    Coming from a teamboss who made the last 5-6 years of the sport boring AF, I at least expected some higher standards.

  8. I think that the deficit is to large to be the normal sandbagging, so they probably have tyre issues again.

    I am getting pretty tired of them blaming everything on Red Bull’s wing, though. Their entire narrative doesn’t make sense. If they have problems with setting up their car that makes it hard for them to compete with not just RB, but also Ferrari, McLaren, etc, then I don’t see how they could beat Red Bull with a less bendy wing.

    It just seems like they are trying to put pressure on the regulators to ban the wing, so it’s a talking point that they bring up constantly, no matter if it makes sense.

  9. Chris Horton
    4th June 2021, 21:52

    Cried Wolff too many times.

    Hoping it’s true, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  10. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
    5th June 2021, 9:32

    Mercedes may not do well for their high standards in quali this weekend, but in their race simulations they look very strong. You can pass in Baku and I would not be surprised if Lewis still makes it into the podium on Sunday.

  11. Maybe braced for a dethroning?

  12. Chris Horton
    5th June 2021, 15:05

    Oh what a surprise. 2nd on the grid.

    Comical and insulting at the same time.

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