Formula 1

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “What an incredibly close qualifying”

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Nico Rosberg - Credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team

Toto Wolff watched Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton continue their epic championship battle during qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix on Saturday, and praised both drivers after finishing within 0.013 seconds apart at the front of the field.

The Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport insists the two rivals keep pushing each other to bigger and better results and continue to push the boundaries of what the W07 Hybrid can do.

“What an incredibly close qualifying, just 13 thousandths between our drivers after their final laps; it was a great showdown,” said Wolff. “Nico has looked strong all weekend but didn’t put the lap together in the first run of Q3, so he had to put everything on the line to claim pole.

“As for Lewis, he has been a fraction behind Nico in most sessions, so it was a fantastic performance to make such a fight of it in Q3 and come so close to pole.

“It was another session that shows what is so good about their rivalry: in Singapore, Nico was the one with the advantage; in Sepang, Lewis had the upper hand; and now it’s so closely matched. They just keep pushing each other to new heights every week and pushing the limits of what the car can do.”

Wolff believes Sunday’s race will be a closely run affair, not just between his team but with both Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull Racing looking strong during practice with their long-run pace, and feels the team will have to maximise their own performance to finish ahead.

“Looking ahead to tomorrow, we know it will be a close race,” admitted Wolff. “The gaps are getting smaller at the end of the season, like we expected, and with Vettel’s grid penalty, both Red Bulls will be very close on track – as well as Kimi starting from P3.

“Their long runs were extremely competitive yesterday, so it will be a tough race and important to take our opportunities. The weather could also play its part, so we will need to prepare diligently and execute our race plan perfectly.”

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