Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team engineer Andrew Shovlin confessed it was “frustrating” to lose the lead to Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen so early in the race, though said it was “a reflection of our pace today which was just not good enough.”
Lewis Hamilton started on pole, with Verstappen promoted to second thanks to Scuderia Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen failing to start. From the outset Hamilton suffered from de-rates, giving Verstappen an easy overtake with DRS in the opening laps. From there the Dutchman drove off into the distance, leaving Hamilton with a lonely drive to an eventual second place. Teammate Valtteri Bottas started and finished in fifth, having been overtaken by Vettel.
“We expected a tough race today and it was. We lost the lead to Verstappen very early which was frustrating, but this is a reflection on our pace today which was just not good enough.
“We had a similar story with Valtteri who made a great start and did a really good job defending against Daniel for the opening laps but ultimately couldn’t hold him behind.”
Despite lacking a considerable amount of pace, Mercedes were once again able to capitalise on failings from Ferrari. The Singapore Grand Prix saw both Ferrari cars fail to finish, whilst the Malaysian Grand Prix saw one car fail to start and the other start from the back.
Whilst this has helped Mercedes to extend their lead further in both the Driver’s and Constructors’ Championships, Shovlin knows that anything can happen in the remaining five races.
“We have benefited significantly from Ferrari’s misfortunes this weekend but they had an extremely quick car and we are under no illusions that the remaining five races will present us with a tough challenge to keep our noses ahead in both titles.
“We will be working hard in the coming days to understand our deficiencies this weekend. But Suzuka is a very different type of circuit and we will go there fighting to get on top of our problems and back to the front.”