Mercedes F1 team principal, Toto Wolff believes that Mercedes has more of a ‘race car than a qualifying car’ sending a clear warning to the current frontrunners in Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes had a slightly difficult start to the season, with an especially aggressive porpoising problem, and videos of the car bouncing up-and-down the straights were prominent on social media. In the past two races, they seem to have put it behind them for the most part, even if it is still there.
George Russell, in particular, was especially impressive in the first sector of the lap. It is safe to say it is nowhere near as much an issue now. The elimination of the vast majority of the porpoising issue means that Mercedes will be able to run their floor lower, which will increase their pace. And now they will also be able to develop the car better, as they understood the reason for the porpoising, and how to best counter it.
Talking about the weekend in a post-qualifying interview with Sky Sports, Wolff said: “My belief is we have a race car more than a qualifying car. But we are going to see tomorrow how it went for the other ones [Red Bull and Ferrari].”
On their progress since the start of the season, Wolff said:
“I believe that we have done a solid step, whilst we know how to unlock more performance, and we’re not yet there, so it’s step-by-step. The other teams have been able to continue to develop their car whilst we have been in a little bit of a pause at the moment to find out about the bouncing, and as soon as we can pick up the regular development and as soon as we can understand the tires better [now that the bouncing is gone], we will be catching up.”
“Did the best that could have been expected” Wolff on the qualifying session
The Red Bull cars have recently looked supreme in the races, winning the last 2 in Imola and Miami. Ferrari have suffered from lower straight-line speed, and the cars have also had problems with tire degradation. Despite that, they look very strong on the one-lap pace, as demonstrated by Charles Leclerc’s amazing pole lap this weekend.
Leclerc had also topped the charts on all practice sessions. All of Leclerc’s wins this season (and before) have come from pole position, and 23 out of the last 31 wins in Barcelona have been from pole. However, the Red Bulls look better on the longer runs, and even Mercedes look very competitive on the long runs.
Wolff feels the same way, as evidenced by his statement: “Red Bull, they always have the tendency of being very strong in the race, less so the Ferraris. Obviously, that is all glass-ball reading.”
Despite being firmly in the mix with the Red Bulls and Ferraris, George Russell’s Mercedes were still pretty far away from pole, the distance between him and Charles Leclerc on top being almost 6 and a half tenths, and also around 3 tenths slower than Max Verstappen on second, who could not complete his final run due to an issue with his DRS system.
Talking about the qualifying session, Wolff feels that they did the best they could have.
“I think we have done a solid step. You try to keep your expectations to a realistic point and where we slotted in today is somehow the best we could have expected.”
He also admitted that in terms of qualifying pace, they were miles away from the top, however as earlier stated, his belief is that they have more of a ‘race car’.
“I don’t know how much gap, six-tenths to Leclerc? This is miles away in terms of qualifying pace so we will see.”
George Russell will be starting 4th, on the second row with Carlos Sainz ahead of him, while behind him sits the Red Bull of Sergio Perez and then his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who will start from 6th on the grid.