Formula 1

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “Qualifying was always our weakness in the first two races”

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Credit: Steve Etherington

Toto Wolff was pleased to see both Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers at the sharp end of the grid for the Portuguese Grand Prix after Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton locked out the front row.

Qualifying had not been Mercedes’ strong point in the opening two races, but they fought superbly at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve to take first and second, with Bottas securing his seventeenth career pole position ahead of his team-mate.

Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, was pleased with the reaction by the team following recent bad performances on Saturdays, although he expects a close battle between them and the two Red Bull Racing drivers in Sunday’s race.

“Qualifying was always our weakness in the first two races and now we’re back at the front,” said Wolff, who saw Bottas beat Hamilton to pole by just 0.007 seconds.  “We have seen these kinds of performances from Valtteri in the past and today was a mega day for him.

“But I have no doubt, like I’ve always said, he can be right up there. Tomorrow we have two Mercedes with two Red Bulls just behind, good ingredients for a nice race!”

Bottas’ Pole ‘a very well-deserved result’ – Andrew Shovlin

Andrew Shovlin, the Track Engineering Director at Mercedes, congratulated Bottas for storming to pole position in Portugal, while he also lauded the team for locking out the front row for the seventy-fifth time since they returned to Formula 1.

“Congratulations to Valtteri on his seventeenth career pole position; he’s looked solid all weekend in challenging conditions so it’s a very well-deserved result,” said Shovlin.  

“It’s also a fine result for the team to be starting with both cars on the front row – the seventy-fifth front row of the modern era for Mercedes F1.”

Shovlin admitted it was a difficult session for the team, particularly when it came to tyre choice, and they went into their final runs in Q3 on the medium tyre, confident they could improve on their lap times from earlier in the session.

“It was a fairly difficult session; it wasn’t clear whether the medium or soft would ultimately be the faster tyre and we also had to understand whether a preparation lap was better than going straight for lap one,” said Shovlin.  

“By final qualifying, no one had come close to matching Lewis’s time on medium from Q2 so we decided to hedge our bets by running both compounds. As it happened, the track got much slower in the final minutes so tyre choice wasn’t important but we were just grateful that we’d done enough to secure the front row.

“We had wanted both cars on the medium tyre to start the race and on balance, we’re happy to have Red Bull on the same start-tyre given that we have track position. Our main concern will be the warm-up on that compound, the soft runners on the third row and behind will have a grip advantage that could last a lap or two so that may might things tricky.”

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton will share the front row in Portugal – Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm

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