The Viennese believes: “One of the strengths of our team is to be very realistic. We saw today where we are, that’s the new starting position: We are the third force, that’s not catastrophic, but of course a new challenge. Now we have to we learn.” On the one hand, this is “the harsh reality”, on the other hand it is also “part of the game”, says Wolff. But how could the team, spoiled by success, get into such trouble?
“In a way, we stumbled over the circumstances,” explains Wolff. “We had a solid first test but knew it wasn’t going to be that relevant because we’re bringing a massive upgrade to the second in Bahrain. Then when we got the car out on the road here we were surprised by the problems. It It took us a while to understand them and now we’re in the process of eradicating them.”
Nevertheless, Mercedes wants to stick to the latest version of the car. “We stand by our current concept and strongly believe that we have chosen the right path. If we develop the potential in the car, we have no doubt that we can play with the guys up front again,” said Wolff. The good from the point of view of the Viennese: “It’s all physics and no witchcraft.”
Alone: How Mercedes wants to master the hopping of the car, which is typical for the new ground effect generation, still puzzles the engineers. In any case, the drivers sound the alarm: “We have fundamental problems, a simple set-up change doesn’t help,” says Vice World Champion Hamilton. “Bouncing is a problem I’ve never experienced with an F1 car before. The cars just aren’t designed to bounce like that, you’re losing and gaining downforce driving all the time.”
Team-mate Russell explains Mercedes’ dilemma: “If you have such a prominent problem, which is clear that it is the biggest stumbling block, then it outshines everything in a way. At the moment our whole focus is on it, only then can we look at other construction sites look at.” These include the high weight of the car and the engine performance.
After all: The head of sport does not see the gap to the top quite as dramatically as he says on paper on Saturday: “It’s probably half a second over a lap. Today it looked like more, but we had (in Q3; ed .) just one lap on the soft tires.” Russell’s big deficit is also the responsibility of the team, because the Brits were instructed to push too hard on the outlap, Wolff protects the newcomer.
After his first qualifying session as a regular Mercedes driver, he nevertheless sobered: “At the moment we are clearly behind our rivals.” Stable mate Hamilton has no illusions about the race: “The guys in front of us are in a different league, they will drive away in front tomorrow.”
Those involved make no secret of the fact that Mercedes’ race on Sunday is all about damage limitation. “Tomorrow we’ll have the whole picture, then it’s about improving further and becoming competitive. Then the race to catch up will begin,” said Wolff. Superstar Hamilton demands: “We have to work quickly and precisely over the next few weeks to close the gap as quickly as possible.”
Russell puts the biggest ray of hope in view of Mercedes’ false start: “In the next three months we only have six races. Compared to after the summer break, for example, where there are six races in seven weeks, we are lucky that the calendar is not that intense at the moment and we get some time.” Time that Mercedes urgently needs to get the W13 into the working window and still get involved in the title fight before the world championship train has left.