Mercedes see “a lesson to learn” from Red Bull’s qualifying tow tactics

2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Mercedes could learn a lesson from the “flawless” slipstreaming tactics Red Bull demonstrated in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, says team principal Toto Wolff.

However he does not believe Max Verstappen took pole position thanks only to the tow he received from team mate Sergio Perez.

Lewis Hamilton qualified second on the grid, three-tenths of a second behind his championship rival, without using a slipstream from Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes.

“For us, I’d like Valtteri to focus on getting his [lap time],” said Hamilton. “We work as a team in terms of Valtteri needs to get the best job done for himself so that we can have both of us as high up as possible. So it’s never something that we discuss or we work on.”

Wolff explained why Mercedes have steered clear of similar tactics to Red Bull in the past. “We have generally the belief that the slipstreaming what you gain on the straight you lose in the corners because it’s simply too close and it’s very difficult to orchestrate.”

In qualifying today Perez initially gave Verstappen a tow until turn nine, covering several long acceleration zones, then backed off to allow his team mate an unhindered run through the remaining corners, where following another car closely would be disadvantageous.

“I think the Red Bulls did it flawlessly today and really credit to them how they did it and that gave them an advantage,” Wolff admitted. “But that is not the reason why we are behind.

“We simply had not enough pace. Perez and Verstappen later on I believe were not slipstreaming and still fast, if I remember right. So a lesson to learn, is that something we should consider in the future? But today it’s basically one-zero for them.”

Verstappen also does not believe the slipstream tactic was key to his vital pole position. “It was discussed before quali,” he explained. “It was very nicely executed as well.

“But it’s not whatever the [pole-winning] gap was, I might have gained a tenth towards turn nine, it’s not a massively long straight. But nevertheless Checo [Perez] is a great team mate and also a real pleasure to work with. So of course, also a big thank you to him.”

The Red Bull drivers pulled off the tactic without practising it on-track ahead of qualifying, he said. “Checo and I said to ourselves we were confident to do it just for that one run. And that’s what we did.”

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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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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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18 comments on “Mercedes see “a lesson to learn” from Red Bull’s qualifying tow tactics”

  1. Merc was so worried about this whole “Bottas-wingman” rhetoric, they didn’t want to push the limit with that.
    Red Bull’s propaganda definitely strikes hard here.
    On the other hand, Horner solved all his problems simply by giving Perez a less competitive car, so nobody ever questioned him about hierarchies.

    1. Nice conspiracy theory you got there.I’m sure Horner purposely turned Perez engine down …

      1. Yeah apparently, the engineers refused to help so Horner went and got his own screwdriver to undo bits on Perez’s car.

    2. I rarely comment here… but I have to in this case.

      Your post is laughable.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        11th December 2021, 18:40

        Fantomius is well-known around here. The level of his conspiracies is pretty basic.

        1. Jose Lopes da Silva
          Sorry I have reported your comment by mistake !

  2. Only tomorrow to go. I’m glad. This all-out crying, accusing, blaming, yadda yadda daa… I feel like Kimi. Happy to retire.

    1. I’m just hoping there isn’t a crash that involves point deductions and then a week of appeals.

      1. @emu55 Kimi isn’t involved so I don’t care. They can go out with a bang as far as I’m concerned. Would be a fitting end to this ridicilous season.

    2. @huhhii Agree. For all of my time as an F1 fan, I’ve supported more races and longer calendars. The more the merrier right?

      This season, that’s changed. It’s become a long, tiring, dragged out end to the season, and feels unnecessarily long compared to almost every other major motorsport chanpionship that finished like a month ago or longer. I think 16-18 races is a good amount, and an absolute maximum of 20.

    3. Wouldn’t it be nice and fitting if tomorrow after an orgy of disqualifications and point deductions by the stewards affecting pretty much everybody, Kimi walked away with his second WDC?

      I pinch my nose and kind of support Max for the WDC because the alternative is unconceivably worse, but really would like to see that happen.

      1. In that case his teammate deserves a WDC more then Kimi to be honest! It’s good that Kimi leaves F1 because he is simply not fast end eager enough anymore!

        1. Kimi should have given up after Ferrari, and even then he was pathetically slow compared with Seb. He’s been wasting a decent seat for half a decade now!

  3. unlucky, George…

    1. Lol! Good point 🙂

  4. VER was quicker in his second Q3 lap without a tow until he aborted it in the third sector. So, clearly, RB has a much nicer setup for the qualifying.

    Adrian Newey’s design are so good with the downforce by design that they can run a much lower downforce wing and still get the traction they need in Sector 3. If they are matching Mercedes in pace in the straights with their trim now and they have the downforce to match in S3, I think RB is in a good shape tomorrow for the win.

  5. Wolff explained why Mercedes have steered clear of similar tactics to Red Bull in the past.

    Oh my god, pinokkio gets a lot of competition this year by toto.

    1. Lol. Toto conveniently forgetting all the times Bot has been moved around for ham to win. Whether it was physical or simply being kept out longer to ruin his race. A little RB tow is nothing in comparison.

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