Toto Wolff admits it’s “incredibly frustrating” to miss out on a race win by such a small gap, and said that the team is looking to the “fine margins” for more performance following a tense Bahrain Grand Prix.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton finished in second and third respectively in the desert night race, with Bottas finishing under seven tenths of a second behind race winner Sebastian Vettel. Despite the team not having seemed capable of such a good result after qualifying, Wolff acknowledged that their strong finish wasn’t completely down to their pace.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to come so close to a win and to miss out at the very end but that was a race that kept us on the edge of our seats until the final corners,” said Wolff. “If you had offered us P2 and P3 yesterday, I would have taken it straight away; but when you consider that both Red Bulls retired, and one Ferrari, then it was also the minimum result we should expect from the race.”
Mercedes used a perhaps unexpected strategy, opting for the hardest compound tyre available – the Medium – to combat additional degradation caused by the heat. Using the Medium tyre could have won them the race, says Wolff, were it not for Vettel and Scuderia Ferrari‘s race management.
“In hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the race and see opportunities to win,” added Wolff. “When we came out after the first stops, running the medium tyre, I think we were in a potentially race-winning position with Valtteri – but Ferrari and Sebastian managed the race extremely well and earned the win.
“Our car really came alive on the soft and medium compounds today, and that is probably one indication that we will see the competitive balance swing from track to track this season.”
Hamilton fought his way up to the podium having started ninth due to a five-place grid penalty following a gearbox change, and Wolff revealed this is better than the team were expecting.
“For Lewis, a podium finish after starting P9 is better than our predictions – and his three-car overtake was a real highlight of the race,” said Wolff. “Overall, it was good damage limitation after we put ourselves on the back foot with the penalty.
“And now we need to focus on those fine margins that make the difference between winning and losing these finely balanced races.”