Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “We were nowhere on Friday but in the ballpark today”

by Paul Hensby
Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas - Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport - Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez

Toto Wolff felt it was a ‘fantastic’ Qualifying session at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Saturday with the leading three teams all within two-tenths of a second, although his Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport drivers could only manage third and fifth on the grid.

A last flying lap by Lewis Hamilton moved him up from fourth to third ahead of Sebastian Vettel, while Valtteri Bottas was able to qualify fifth despite his mechanics executing an engine change after final practice on Saturday morning.

Never-the-less, there was a front row lock-out by Aston Martin Red Bull Racing as they adapted better to the high-altitude in Mexico, with Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, pleased for Daniel Ricciardo for turning around his recent rough luck by sticking his RB14 on pole position.

“A fantastic qualifying session with the top three teams covered by two tenths of a second – and congratulations to Daniel, who has had a tough time in recent races,” said Wolff.

“As a team, we can be happy with how we recovered – we were nowhere on Friday but in the ballpark today.”

Wolff says Hamilton starting on the second row might not be the worst thing as there may be opportunities at the start to make progress against the two Red Bulls.  He was also happy to see Hamilton edge out Vettel on the grid as well as Bottas qualifying ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, although keeping them behind them on Sunday is likely to be tricky.

“Starting from the second row with Lewis may not be the worst thing tomorrow with the long straight, certainly he will have opportunities on the way to Turn One,” said Wolff.

“From the constructors’ perspective, it’s good to have each of our cars ahead of a Ferrari on the grid; but they are once again so fast on the straights that keeping them behind won’t be easy. It’s certainly going to be a very exciting run to the first corner…”

Wolff admits there is potential for carnage heading into turn one with the straight-line speed differences of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari, and he hopes that both Hamilton and Bottas come through the opening turn without damage.

“The grid has the potential for carnage on the straight and through the first corners,” said Wolff to Motorsport.com.  “Because you have the two Red Bulls which have the least straight-line speed on the front row, then it’s us, and then the Ferraris are obviously almost 10km/h up to everybody else.

“I try to visualise how that could look down the straight and through the first corner, and I just hope we come out with two cars intact!”

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