Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s Toto Wolff says that the team taking first place in the Constructors table is “little comfort” following a race where they “lacked pace in each phase“.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas jumped Scuderia Ferrari‘s Kimi Raikkonen at the start of the race, but was unable to close the gap to first-placed Sebastian Vettel. Bottas used the undercut to overtake Vettel at the first round of pit stops, though lost the lead – and the win – to Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s Daniel Ricciardo, who used a safety car period to swap onto newer tyres. Further back Lewis Hamilton had a quiet race, failing to gain any positions and finishing where he qualified, in fourth.
Speaking on the race and Bottas’ performance Wolff said that they “saw a real fighter in the car today“, and that whilst he was unlucky with the timing of the safety car, “he protected [second place] in a perfect way”.
“I am sure that was a fantastic grand prix for the fans watching in the grandstands and back at home – but it was a very challenging one from where we were sitting.
“Ultimately, the reality of today’s pace is that we lacked pace in each phase – Sebastian managed the performance in the opening stint, building a good gap to Valtteri, and the Red Bulls were significantly faster on fresher tyres after the Safety Car.
“The best part of our day was undoubtedly Valtteri’s drive: the pit wall called an aggressive undercut, the boys delivered a perfect pit stop and he claimed first the position over Sebastian, then the lead from Kimi with a bold pass round the outside.
“We saw a real fighter in the car today and, while he was unfortunate with the Safety Car timing opening the door for Red Bull, he protected [second place] in a perfect way.”
Commenting on Hamilton’s race and the decision to not bring the Brit in when the safety car came out, Wolff said that at the time they thought track position would be more important than new tyres – though he admits this was the wrong call.
“For Lewis, it was a tougher afternoon. He could not make progress in the opening stint, pitted early for the medium tyre running a one-stop strategy and then was sitting in P3 after the Safety Car came in.
“At that stage we believed that gaining track position was key as we did not see any overtaking in the first part of the race. In the end we must admit that the decision from Red Bull to pit for a fresh set of tyres under the safety car was the right call but that was not a given at that stage of the race.”
Looking at the outcome of the race, Wolff says that their second and fourth-place finishes today are not what the team were hoping for coming into the weekend, and that there is still much work to be done before they understand how to get the most from their cars.
“P2 and P4 is some good damage limitation from a tricky race but it is little comfort that this puts us in the lead of the constructors’ championship as we head home. We have seen the competitive picture change quickly over the past three races and it’s clear that we still have much to understand about our car and how to get the best from the tyres. We have been in tough spots before in recent years and shown the right spirit to respond. We will do the same again this time.”