Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team CEO and Team Principal Toto Wolff notices how the quickly the performances between driver duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton changes. In recent weeks, the driver topping the practice sessions, hasn’t gained pole and that happened again today with Hamilton topping practice and Bottas on pole.
“That was a great qualifying session, once again coming down to the final lap of the final run. Last weekend in Portugal, Valtteri looked to have the upper hand through qualifying, then Lewis took the pole right at the end by a tenth; this time, Valtteri turned the tables and was able to claim pole,” said Wolff.
“We’ve seen them both very close in qualifying at the last races, with the advantage swinging back and forth, and that’s exactly how it should be. For tomorrow, we decided to start on the Medium compound because the Soft didn’t look great on the long runs in practice. The only thing we’ll be telling the drivers is to go flat out and race each other hard – everything else they know and we’re looking forward to see how it plays out.“
Chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin reviews the day as a whole, especially considering the drivers have only had one practice sessions this weekend. Practice didn’t go to plan for the team due to the soft tyres not being as high performing as the team believed, even if they did top the session.
Shovlin said: “It’s great to be starting tomorrow with both cars on the front row and well done to Valtteri for a fine lap at the very end to put him on pole. We’ve enjoyed the two-day format so far. It’s simply not possible to do all the normal homework in the space of one and a half hours, so the session ends up a bit of a compromise of both low and high fuel work.
“A bit of a surprise for us in the morning session was just how poor the soft tyre was. If we’d known that we’d have done the same FP1 programme as Red Bull and Ferrari, and saved a set for qualifying. It took Valtteri a bit of time to get going in the morning, he damaged his first set of hard tyres with a flatspot which meant he was having to do the low fuel work on medium and soft tyres without many laps under his belt.
“Lewis had a tidier session, getting to grips with the track on the first run and by the time he was on low fuel he was putting in times that were faster than anyone. With such little running in practice, qualifying is always going to be a bit of a learning curve but our cars looked like we had a bit of margin to Red Bull throughout although it was nip and tuck between our two drivers with Valtteri just nudging it in front in the final moments. We’re not sure where we sit to Red Bull on pace for tomorrow, they looked about the same as us in the long runs this morning, but we’ll find out in the first stint when we see if we can build a gap.“