Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023

Verstappen “on another level” but we should’ve been right behind him – Wolff

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says they had the pace to get one of their cars on the front row of the grid alongside Max Verstappen.

However he admitted the team remains far from the Red Bull driver’s pace at the moment following the change of design philosophy it introduced at the previous race.

Wolff said the team’s performance with their upgrade today was “solid” and they “should have been right behind Max – this is what we’ve seen after FP3 this morning where we felt we had something in the bag.”

Lewis Hamilton was third-fastest in final practice behind the two Red Bulls. Sergio Perez failed to make the cut for Q3, giving Mercedes a shot at the front row.

“That’s why the disappointment is big because we expected more,” Wolff continued. “Having said that, if you look at the gaps it was very, very compressed with everyone. You can get it wrong easily.”

“You can see that Leclerc is out in Q1, Perez is out in Q2, so that’s a bit of a mystery today,” he added. “The wind changed 180 degrees and some were caught out, maybe, because of that.”

The team is gaining confidence in the changes it made to the car at the last race, said Wolff. “I believe in the package.

“It is a new baseline, it is from where we can continue to work on with a certain stability without needing to questions certain parts of the car, whether it’s the bodywork, the floor, the front suspension that is now established. This is what we are taking forward now.”

Verstappen was able to abandon his final timed lap but still took pole position by almost half a second from Carlos Sainz Jnr. Wolff admitted he “simply doesn’t know” how far ahead the Red Bull is.

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“I think Verstappen is just on a different level. It pisses me off to say that but that is the reality.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Spanish Grand Prix qualifying in pictures
“There is a meritocracy, they’ve just done the best job, the driver’s driving excellent and they are just far away. And that is something which only we have in our hands to get under control.”

Hamilton enjoyed a competitive qualifying session. Despite a bizarre collision with his team mate in Q2 he reached the final 10 and will start fourth on the grid following Pierre Gasly’s penalty.

However George Russell failed to make the cut for Q3, which Wolff believes was due to a poor set-up choice.

“It was clear from the beginning that the set-up direction we went with George made the car worse,” he said. “I think from the get-go he complained that he didn’t feel any grip, that he had bouncing, the car understeered where it would before oversteer.

“That’s something which we need to unwind now to understand exactly what we could have done differently.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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    10 comments on “Verstappen “on another level” but we should’ve been right behind him – Wolff”

    1. Verstappen is becoming Ferrari/Schumacher-level untouchable, so way ahead, car and driver, that it’s actually difficult to gauge anything. A separate formula almost. Meanwhile everyone else seem increasingly bunched up. But until Mercedes can introduce a new chassis next year (and copy that really quite stunningly beautiful Red Bull floor), I can’t imagine them bothering Verstappen on the time sheets.

      1. BW (@deliberator)
        4th June 2023, 5:40

        By which time, RBR would have taken that “stunningly beautiful Red Bull floor” a few steps further, leaving MB again playing catch up.
        While it may not be good for the show (i.e. Netflix), I can’t see any other team putting up a sustained challenge under this set of regulations, unless the FIA intervenes, again for the benefit of Netflix.
        But, while many people on one side of the camp were happy to watch LH waltz to many successive titles unchallenged, now I can happily sit on the other side and watch MV do the same.

        1. Sounds like neither of those camps were fans of F1.

    2. Straight from the horse’s mouth.

      1. Hard for him to admit that they are slower that Ferarri, McLaren and Renault.

    3. Yellow Baron
      3rd June 2023, 21:45

      Surprised Lewis ended up 5th, considering they said he had fresh tyres and the others around him apparently did not.

    4. Hamilton said car was pulling to the right after Russell hit him. So car was not in perfect shape for q3. Considering that he was less than .2s off the front row is a great result for them although they expected more.

    5. Mercedes’ goal for tomorrow is to not be lapped by VER twice. I believe VER will put the bottom 15 down 2 laps. The track is fast, the car is fast, and the driver is fast.

      1. BW (@deliberator)
        4th June 2023, 5:43

        Possibly, probably even, you are right that MV could lap most of the field twice. But I doubt he will – no point in over stressing the car and/or tyres when it isn’t necessary. MV can operate at 80% capacity and still humiliate the field, Perez included.
        Also, if they show how far ahead they really are – the FIA is bound to get involved and try to change the rules so that Netflix gets more followers.

    6. Wonder if Russell was so sure he had the right setup after his boasts a few races ago that it was obvious his setup was better than Hamilton’s. Might remind of the value of humility when you’re on top.

    Comments are closed.