Toto Wolff said seeing the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team winning the Belgian Grand Prix for the first time since 2017 felt good, with the German marque taking a one-two finish on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory from pole position with Valtteri Bottas finishing just under nine seconds behind in second place, with Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, saying it was quite a straight-forward race at Spa-Francorchamps, up until near the end.
Concerns over the tyres forced both drivers to ease off the pace in the closing laps, with the memories of the failures during the British Grand Prix still fresh in their mind, but they were able to reach the chequered flag without any issues for their sixth win of 2020.
“That was a great race,” said Wolff. “We had not won in Spa since 2017, so to come back with such a strong performance and very good pace on a track that troubled us before makes me really happy.
“The race was relatively straight-forward after the start, but it ended up getting very tricky towards the end, because the tyres were almost at the end of their life. We could see the same on Verstappen’s car and at that point it was really about bringing our cars home safely. So we told our drivers to stay off the kerbs and lose quite a bit of pace.
“It gave us a bit of a headache because the memory of the punctures in Silverstone was still fresh and that’s obviously what we wanted to avoid at all cost. So for us, the race wasn’t over until both cars had really crossed the line – but luckily they did and secured this great one-two.
“We’re really looking forward to go to Monza next week and then to Mugello – the races keep coming thick and fast and it just doesn’t stop.”
“The safety car was a bit earlier than we’d have wanted” – Andrew Shovlin
Andrew Shovlin, the chief race engineer at Mercedes, said the early intervention of the safety car, caused when Antonio Giovinazzi and George Russell crashed out, made for a longer than planned stint on the hard compound of Pirelli tyre, which left the team struggling in the closing laps.
The team were planning to stop a little later than they were ultimately forced to meaning tyre conservation was key, particularly in the closing laps. They were helped by Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen doing the same in third place, which meant they were relatively secure in first and second.
“Another great result for the team,” commented Shovlin. “The safety car was a bit earlier than we’d have wanted, which made it difficult to get the hard tyre through those last few laps.
“In the early part of the second stint we thought it was close between a one and a two-stop, but seeing the degradation on the hard, we realised that Verstappen on the two-stop would be a significant threat around lap 25 when he was close behind Valtteri.
“That caused us to get both drivers to drop the tyre management and put some quick laps in. They were both able to build gaps that meant we could cover if Red Bull did stop but the fast laps did take a bit out of the tyres and they were really dropping off in the last few laps. Overall though, it’s been a good weekend for the team.
“The car hasn’t had the same pace we’ve enjoyed at other tracks this year, particularly in qualifying, but the team has done a good job to get the most out of it and we’ve operated well throughout the weekend.”
Shovlin is expecting a much tougher test this coming week at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza due to the low-drag nature of the Italian track, but he has confidence they can stay ahead of the chasing pack.
“We’re looking forward to Monza, but we need to find a lower drag set-up as we’re behind Red Bull on the straights already and the latest technical directive from the FIA on engine modes is going to cost us time in qualifying,” he added.
“But the team will be working hard in Brackley and Brixworth over the next few days to try and stay ahead.”