Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

Verstappen was quick enough to take pole by half a second – Wolff

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Toto Wolff says Mercedes were lucky to secure a front-row lockout for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, believing Max Verstappen would have beaten them by half a second.

Verstappen was up by over two tenths on Lewis Hamilton through the first two sectors of his final qualifying lap, before a brush with the barrier on the exit of the final corner ended his chances of taking pole.

Wolff says the sheer pace of the Red Bull driver over the lap shows how lucky the team were to end up first and second on the grid.

“We clearly weren’t quick enough,” said Wolff. “I think our cars were good for P2 and P3 and probably the drivers outperformed the car.

“Max would have been on pole by, I guess, almost half a second. So this is something which we need to analyse because it’s not what we expected. Max crashing out obviously on the last lap puts us in a more fortunate situation with one and two on the grid. I think we can deem ourselves fortunate for that situation, but the race is a totally different game again.”

With both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships hanging in the balance between Mercedes and Red Bull with two races left in the season, Wolff says the two rivals are so closely matched that it’s hard to call who holds the advantage.

“It changes throughout the sessions. I think we are pretty equal on the straights, but we’ve been losing in the high speed but then also in qualifying in some of the low speed.

“The drivers are not at all happy with the car. It’s between understeer, snapping, checking, rolling, you name it.”

Mercedes can clinch the constructors’ championship at today’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix if they can build a 44-point gap over Red Bull come the chequered flag, requiring they outscore them by 40 points.

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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
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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19 comments on “Verstappen was quick enough to take pole by half a second – Wolff”

  1. I do enjoy the massive trolling Wolff perfects whenever Merc do well. Let’s hope he eats some humble pie in a few hours.

  2. Laughable remarks by Toto, as often happens

    1. Please explain the joke.

      1. “Laugh at” not “laugh with”

      2. someone or something
        5th December 2021, 17:04

        @biker56
        Verstappen was just over 2 tenths up before the final sector. Hamilton had a rather strong final sector, improving Verstappen’s time from his previous run by a tenth. In order to beat Hamilton by half a second, Verstappen would’ve had to gain an additional 3 tenths, i.e. improve his own personal best by 4 tenths.
        In a sector of 27 seconds, with basically two corners, and two-thirds of its length are DRS.

        In other words: Verstappen was most likely on course to beat Hamilton by 2-3 tenths, which is not really a spectacular gap on such a long lap. For some reason, Wolff thought this didn’t sound dramatic enough, and decided to exaggerate the gap by a factor of 2.

        Why? Because it fits the weird narrative Mercedes have spun for years, that their own car isn’t that good, usually slower than their strongest competitors’, so when a competitor comes close to actually beating them, they’ll never admit defeat due to the other team doing a better job. No, if Mercedes lose (or even come close to losing), it’s always just because the competitor’s car was so much better that only Mercedes’ operational excellence gave them half a chance of not losing face.

        And that’s what a lot of fans find amusing, or rather: ridiculous. It’s not clear if Wolff truly believes the odds are pretty much always stacked against his team (and oftentimes massively so), or if he just wants to manipulate the public opinion. The thing is: It is rather odd for a large car manufacturer’ brand to insinuate that success due to building a superior car is somehow immoral, and that building an inferior car, but winning because of better drivers and track-side operations, is a great sales argument.
        So, if you buy a Mercedes, you had better be more of a Hamilton than a Verstappen, and you better have a top-notch team supporting you, or everyone around you is going to run circles around you, with their inherently superior cars …

        1. HA. HA. HA.

          1. someone or something
            6th December 2021, 21:05

            Sigh. So this is what I get for giving an answer assuming an IQ of more than potato. I should’ve known better.

          2. @someone
            Sarcasm is the highest form of humour.
            Your argument seems to be based on a strange paranoid fantasy of your take of Toto’s thought process.
            My real time take when watching was ‘wow – Max almost aced it – what a shame’ followed by ‘why didn’t he back off?’ That was nearly the lap of the championship.
            Looking at the footage, Max was around 4 tenths up going into the last corner. So ‘almost half a second’ was possible. So it wasn’t ‘laughable’, it wasn’t a ‘joke’.
            There’s a thought process called ‘projection’ – try googling it. Maybe also things like ‘humour’, ‘joke’ and similar.

    2. Mercs are so much faster they only need to cruise around to secure the front row and yet we keep hearing this nonsense. Here’s to a big Merc pileup at T1.

  3. We saw from fp1 to fp3 clearly rbr did more work on soft tire pace and by fp3 it was clear Mercedes had no answer for it. One question for Wolff is why they didn’t try to do q3 on the mediums which seemed maybe faster for them.

    1. The teams get an extra set of softs for Q3; maybe Mercedes didn’t have enough mediums for the race.

    2. Q3 had to be done at the softest available compound.

      1. someone or something
        5th December 2021, 17:25

        Q3 had to be done at the softest available compound.

        That’s incorrect. Such a rule exists only for Sprint Qualifying weekends.

  4. I think verstappen would’ve been on pole by 2-3 tenths, but he had to take heavy risks to do so, as shown, probably red bull had a slight edge but since bottas is a better qualifier than perez he still ended up beating him.

    1. Remember verstappens engineer telling him the car is quick enough so don’t try to get pole in t1? Well verstappen almost crashed in t1 and didn’t let up from there. From my vast experience, albeit from PlayStation and driving my car to Costco, I think he was overdriving a touch. Seriously though from the way the session developed and from practice there was no reason to think the time was not in the car and that heavier than usual risks were required.

  5. I think RBR strategy was risky – concentrating setup for pole and control the race from the front hence the reason for not focusing on long run pace in FP3. Their thinking likely being that overtaking is risky, if not impossible. If Hamilton risks the overtake and a racing incident of some sort happens then the 8 point lead in the final race is likely to be enough. Especially as MV would have more race wins.

    Did MV even run the hard or medium tyre in FP3? They were down on race pace on Friday and didn’t try to improve the race set up. Will be interesting to see if RBR pace translates into race pace. No one in the media has commented on this. Only RBR qualifying pace mentioned thus far.

  6. What ifs are glorifying Max’s failed lap. at the end of the day it was a terrible lap as his error potentially cost him the world championship

  7. Clearly he wasn’t

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