Toto Wolff was happy with Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s first and third qualifying results after the wind made a troublesome return to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
As was the case during Free Practice 2 on Friday, the breeze caught most of the drivers out and prompted a cautious approach to qualifying if they were wanting to remain within the track’s limits.
The errors, some minor but others very obvious, meant that pole position was earned by he who made the least, and on the day that was Lewis Hamilton but only by 0.051s.
“Nobody had it easy out there this afternoon and it was nice to see such a close fight for pole in the final laps,” he said. “Lewis did a great job: it was tricky to put the sectors together today, and I’m not sure any driver had a perfect lap, but he did two times good enough for pole position in Q3 and really deserved it.”
Valtteri Bottas‘ Saturday started off on the back-foot after the Finn was forced to change a new engine for his old one. That left him with very little time on the day to get a feel for the track, and in Wolff’s opinion proved his downfall during the shoot-out.
“As for Valtteri, I think he was probably lacking some miles after the engine change this morning; he had the pace but small mistakes on each lap meant he couldn’t get on the front row,” he continued.
“Even so, first and third are good starting positions, from the clean side of the grid.”
The long straight in Sochi is contrasted with a shorter run to the first corner in Spain. Coupled with their start on the side with the most grip, this gives the Silver Arrows a good advantage going into the race. But the track is destined to test the tyres to their limits, making tyre management another factor for drivers to think about despite being described as suffering low degradation.
A place on the podium will be gifted to those who balance all of their spinning plates and stay one step ahead on Sunday.
“The race will be long and tough with the tyres; there will be lots of opportunities to take, so we need to stay alert and make the right decisions all the way though,” he added.
“We saw from the lap times this afternoon that this new generation of cars is blindingly fast and that gave the fans a great Formula One show today.”