Formula 1

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “We were worried that the timing was wrong”

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Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport - Spa-Francorchamps
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Toto Wolff was full of praise for Lewis Hamilton after the British driver took pole position for the Belgian Grand Prix in tricky conditions at Spa-Francorchamps, overcoming main championship rival Sebastian Vettel by more than seven-tenths of a second.

The rain forced the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team to fuel Hamilton up for the whole session to give him the opportunity to run as many laps as possible in a bid to take pole, and it was his final lap that saw him grasp the position, much to the delight of his team principal Wolff.

Wolff says there was some concern that with conditions improving and Hamilton the first to pass the chequered flag that he may have been vulnerable from those behind, but the fears were quickly put to bed as he put in ‘three brilliant sectors’.

“That was a great lap from Lewis at the end to claim pole position – once again, he showed that when the pressure is on, there’s nobody else you’d want in the car,” said Wolff.  “Until the rain came in Q3, it was a very close fight between Ferrari and ourselves, getting closer as the session went on.

“Then when the rain came, we decided to fuel for the session and give Lewis the best chance to get pole – and that proved to be the right call. In fact, Lewis was the first car to cross the line, so we were worried that the timing was wrong; but in the end, it didn’t matter as he put together three brilliant sectors to take P1 by a healthy margin.”

Wolff admitted the plan to have Valtteri Bottas give a tow to Hamilton in Q3 was abandoned when the rain came down, but he was happy with the way the Finn has performed so far this weekend, and with his new engine, he hopes that there can be significant gains of position on Sunday.

“As for Valtteri, we abandoned the plan for him to tow Lewis in Q3 when the rain came, as it would have been too risky,” said Wolff.

“But we saw glimpses of his true performance in his short qualifying session today, and I hope he can put that to good use tomorrow from the back of the grid.”

Wolff also had time to praise the work done by the Racing Point Force India F1 Team who came to Spa as a new entry following the takeover of the Sahara Force India F1 Team by the Lawrence Stroll-led consortium and secured an excellent second row lock-out, Esteban Ocon ahead of Sergio Pérez.

“Well done, too, to the entire team at Force India; after the turbulence of the past weeks, P3 and P4 on the grid is a great boost for them,” said Wolff.

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