Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “We knew that we had to take some risks in order to win”

by Paul Hensby

Toto Wolff felt Lewis Hamilton’s Mexican Grand Prix victory was an unexpected win, particularly with how the Mercedes AMG Motorsport team has traditionally struggled at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Conditions in Mexico City haven’t always suited Mercedes, and starting from third and sixth on the grid, it appeared that 2019 would also show up their weaknesses, but Hamilton’s eighth victory of the season and Valtteri Bottas’ run to third showed the team had made progress with their W10 car and engine package.

Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, said the strategy call to pit Hamilton when they did was a risky one but one worth taking, and it proved to be the masterstroke as the Briton went onto claim the eighty-third victory of his Formula 1 career and edge closer to his sixth World Championship.

“You could say today was an unexpected win,” said Wolff.  “In recent years the conditions here in Mexico haven’t suited our car but I am glad it came together today.

“We knew that we had to take some risks in order to win – so that’s what we did it and it worked out. Lewis did an incredible job out there today, especially with tyre management. It’s about finding the right balance between the aggressiveness you need to have, particularly on the outlap in order to undercut, but then equally you need to be able to switch off and manage the tyres to the end.

“This is where communication between the driver and the engineers is very important.”

Wolff also praised the effort put in by the mechanics to reassemble Bottas’ car ahead of the race following his big crash in the closing stages of Qualifying, with the Finnish driver able to start from his original sixth position (without any grid penalties) to finish on the podium in third.

“It was also a monumental effort from the guys in the garage to put Valtteri’s car back together after the state it was in after qualifying, so a very well done to them,” said Wolff.  “It was a strong race from Valtteri as well and I’m happy to see how confident he is when he races, actually pushing Lewis hard.

“They are really benefitting from each other, they look at each other’s data and both of them have really grown with the team.”

Valtteri Bottas claimed third despite crashing in Qualifying – Credit: LAT Images

Andrew Shovlin, the Trackside Engineering Director at Mercedes, was delighted by the result a year on from their worst performance of 2018 at the same venue.  Twelve months ago, both drivers struggled with tyre management while the power unit also struggled, with the team identifying the problems and bringing solutions to the track for this season.

“This was the scene of our worst race last year; we were bottom of the class on tyre management and the power unit was struggling with the altitude,” said Shovlin.  “It’s so nice to come back here and win one year later as a lot of work has gone into understanding why we were weak in both of those areas and making sure we didn’t repeat the same mistakes twice.”

Shovlin said the team did not know what to expect on Sunday until the first stint, but the changes made to the car aided both Hamilton and Bottas to manage the tyres better, and the whole result was a satisfying outcome despite the inability to run close to cars in front due to rising engine and brake temperatures.

“We didn’t really know what to expect in the race as we’d made a lot of changes to the car after Friday night and the first stint was going to tell us whether we’d gone in the right direction,” said Shovlin.  

“The warmer track seemed to help the tyres today and we could see early on that the degradation was low which brought the one stop back onto the table. Both drivers did a brilliant job managing the tyres and both had really good pace in the race.

“We couldn’t follow closely as we were running hot on most things so the overtaking had to be done on strategy but the one stop worked well and to walk away with a first and third from where we started is extremely satisfying.

“It was great fun racing today and we are looking forward to Austin where we expect that to be another tough fight.”

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both finished on the podium in Mexico – Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm

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