Toto Wolff says he could not ask for more from his Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team after they locked out the front row of the grid for the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday despite limited running prior to the Qualifying hour due to the inclement weather conditions.
Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, watched on as Valtteri Bottas secured his fourteenth career pole position, and his third of the season, ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with the duo separated by 0.256 seconds at the end of Q3.
It looked as though Max Verstappen was the driver to beat for much of the Qualifying session, but when it matter, Bottas pulled out a lap-record breaking lap to secure top spot, with Hamilton slipping into second ahead of the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver.
“We couldn’t ask for much better than a one-two on the grid at the Nürburgring, in the Baltic temperatures that we are all experiencing this weekend,” said Wolff. “It was very close with Max and at some stages during that Qualifying session, it looked like they may have had the edge over us.
“But it was a perfect performance from Valtteri around here, he did a brilliant job to secure pole position for tomorrow and Lewis wasn’t far behind to lock out the front row.
“It puts us in a good position for the race, but there are still some unknowns due to the limited running we’ve had and these cold temperatures. So, that should make tomorrow a fun race and I’m excited to see how it plays out.”
Bottas ‘Saved his best till last’ – Andrew Shovlin
Andrew Shovlin, the track engineer director at Mercedes, praised Bottas for getting the best out of his car when it mattered, especially when both Hamilton and Verstappen struggled in Q3 compared to Q2.
Shovlin felt Hamilton was on fire and setting really strong laps early in the session but lost grip in Q3 that meant he fell behind Bottas, although his best was still good enough for second place on the grid.
“Well done to Valtteri for a great pole lap, he certainly saved his best till last,” said Shovlin. “It’s great to be able to start with both cars on the front row.
“Lewis was putting in some really strong laps earlier in the session, but like Max, his best was in the second session and he wasn’t finding the same grip when it really mattered in the final session.”
Shovlin said it was a busy day at the Nürburgring after they, and everyone else, lost out on any running on Friday due to the weather conditions around the German circuit.
Final practice on Saturday morning saw both drivers running short and long runs in a bid to gather enough data to be competitive in both Qualifying and the race this weekend.
“It’s been a busy day for us; the morning programme was pretty packed with a mix of long runs at high fuel and low fuel work,” he said. “Both drivers were happy with the car balance, but the cold conditions were making it quite a challenge to generate the tyre temperature we need on a single lap.
“That remained one of the factors in Qualifying that was causing the pace to jump up and down a bit. The race itself will be a bit of a voyage of discovery, we don’t know how fast our competitors are on a long run and we don’t really know how the tyres will perform.
“The Soft at least seemed to hold up pretty well this morning, so we’re happy to be starting the race on it but we’ll be looking at degradation during the first stint to understand whether it’s a one or two-stop race.”