George Russell, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2023

Mercedes “weren’t adaptive enough” in tricky qualifying conditions – Wolff

Formula 1

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Mercedes did not get their tactics right when a sudden change in weather conditions hit the final stage of qualifying at Interlagos, team principal Toto Wolff admitted.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell qualified fifth and sixth on the grid for Sunday’s race. Mercedes reacted quickly to the threat of rain in Q3 by sending both their drivers out to start their laps soon after the session began, but were unable to capitalise on that advantage.

The Mercedes pair lined up behind the Aston Martin drivers at the end of the pit lane before Q3 began. When it did, Max Verstappen immediately passed George Russell to run between them. As the conditions deteriorated, the Mercedes drivers failed to beat both the Aston Martins, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc who was running behind them.

Wolff admitted they should have told their drivers to push harder as they prepared to begin their laps. “I think you see how we’re in the marginal differences in terms of out-laps and temperatures,” Wolff told Sky. “I think we weren’t adaptive enough.

“The Aston Martins just stormed away. Max straight out of the garage with warm tyres also stormed away and that was the quickest cars. And we were a second off the previous time or eight tenths off and it shows you what you should have done.”

Hamilton admitted Mercedes likely qualified further down the grid than they should have done due to the change in conditions.

“The car was showing signs of decent performance, but we were generally a couple of tenths off the top guys,” he said. “But I think the circumstances at the end, the conditions probably have us maybe a little bit further back – maybe, I don’t know.”

Like Leclerc, George Russell came close to abandoning his lap because his car’s balance felt so poor. But he continued and was not too disheartened to join his team mate on the third row of the grid.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” said Russell. “I’ve never ever seen a change of weather so drastically as that.

“I was really disappointed with the lap. On my lap I was just sliding around, I had no grip. I didn’t see that much rain on my visor but I was a second off and I actually wanted to pit because I was confident I was going to be last and ended up P6.

“So while it was disappointing and frustrating, P6 is definitely not a bad place to start.”

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10 comments on “Mercedes “weren’t adaptive enough” in tricky qualifying conditions – Wolff”

  1. Robert Henning
    3rd November 2023, 20:52

    Years of engine driven dominance covered up for ok race operations. After falling down with engine parity let his right hand man go, then also let Elliot leave when there’s serious brain drain.

    Two only way to try for a win strategies at Hungary and Spain without risk labeled as masterclasses was the peak of their dominance.

    Every weekend in the closest grid F1 has ever seen one team is thriving having developed itself in every other aspect when Merc dominated. Now it’s time to fix all of that and come back up.

    Time will tell if Toto was a good manager managing a successful team or if he is a great manager being able to come back. It’s still easier than whatever Horner had to do given engine parity but the early signs are not promising.

    1. Mercedes operate their racing team like a large manufacturing organization. They make decisions months in advace and stick to the process. They default to the simulator first before common sense. All well and good when there is some performance margin but when the margins are small, slow decisions can be the difference between 1st and 11th.

      1. That’s a very good point, while not as bad as ferrari generally, mercedes dropped the ball several times strategically when they’ve been under pressure the last years, and not only when under pressure, see even hungary 2021, with verstappen’s car really damaged and perez out, there shouldn’t been no pressure, yet hamilton was the only one to stay out on the grid with intermediate tyres on a basically dry track, all others pitted and he had to recover from the back and didn’t win a race where he had a massive performance advantage on everyone who was still in the race.

      2. there should’ve been*

  2. considering they were losing about 2/10’s in sector 3, probably not a bad showing. Especially if you are trying to hunt for time in the tricky bits. A head of Ferrari, and behind a couple cars that will probably lose out on real pace. Par for Mercedes if Ferrari don’t threaten too much on Sunday.

    I really think sprint qualifying should be on Fridays, and Race qualifying on Saturdays, and parc ferme only enforced for the race on Sunday.

    1. Yes, this makes sense for the sprint format, some people argued that liberty wanted a more action packed friday, but you could put both the sprint quali and the sprint on friday, then like it’s always been for sat and sun.

  3. Mercedes weren’t adaptive enough:
    In qualifying
    In changing their aero
    In calls for pit stops in almost every race
    In setting their plank height
    ‘In …

  4. they haven’t really replaced James have they. Whatever team they’ve put in is too slow, and not brave enough. But how the drivers don’t know what temperatures their tyres are and need to be is a mystery, when they can put them up on the display on the steering wheel. Lewis lost .3 in S1, so it’s obvious they were too cool at the start of the lap. I suppose there are other things they need to have there as well. And they were in a queue. Are they allowed HUD on their visors?

  5. They’re on Row 3, by Lap 4 Lewis and maybe George will have overtaken both Astons. So not a bad qualifying session for them.

    1. Mmmm, I don’t know, astons looked relatively competitive and alonso is a tough customer to overtake, if they don’t get the jump immediately it might compromise their race.

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