Toto Wolff was left frustrated with his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Teams performance on Saturday at the Belgian Grand Prix as grid penalties for the front-runners had promised the chance of a strong showing in qualifying from the Silver Arrows.
However, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell initially qualifying in seventh and eighth placed respectively, the team appears to have taken a step back in regard to performance following Formula One’s return from the summer break.
With grid penalties enforced for Verstappen, Leclerc and Ocon, the Mercedes duo will now start tomorrow’s race in the fourth and fifth positions on the grid.
Despite the strong starting position for tomorrow’s race, Wolff was left disappointed as he explained the team still does not have a full understanding of the W13.
“That was a very disappointing qualifying result, no matter that penalties for other cars tomorrow will push us up the grid. Four weeks ago in Hungary, we were on pole, albeit with some slightly unusual circumstances that played in our favour; today, we were 1.8 seconds off pole position.
“Nobody in the team thinks that kind of deficit is acceptable, and even now after 14 races, we don’t understand how to consistently get performance out of this car.”
Wolff remains hopeful his Mercedes’ team will have a stronger showing during tomorrow’s Grand Prix but reminded his team, regardless of the result, they still have a considerable amount of work ahead of them as the team looks to solve their one-lap pace.
“We seem to have high drag on the straights and haven’t given either driver a balance this weekend to give them confidence. Hopefully tomorrow we will have better race pace than we showed today, but we know that no matter our finishing positions, we have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Andrew Shovlin: “The car has been really difficult to get into a good working window here“
Trackside Engineering Director of the Mercedes team, Andrew Shovlin explained that despite the team not meeting its expectations this weeken, the team needs to try and move forward from what has so far been a disappointing weekend.
Mercedes had high hopes of closing the gap to Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend but after qualifying in seventh and eighth place originally, the team will likely reign expectations in for the weekend and potentially for the remainder of the season ahead.
“We were hoping to close the gap to the front here which is clearly not what we have achieved but this year has thrown plenty of setbacks at us, we just need to learn what we can from it and try to move forward.”
Shovlin explained how comprising balance and stiffness has played it’s part in Mercedes’ struggles this weekend but has also stated that a worrying trend of being unable to set a competitive time on new tyres would have to be investigated in due course.
“The car has been really difficult to get into a good working window here; we’re having to make a lot of compromises in how we’re running it in terms of balance and stiffnesses. That’s part of the problem but we’ve also failed to do a decent lap on new tyres all weekend which is probably a separate issue that we need to investigate and understand.”
With Hamilton and Russell moving forward due to the number of grid penalties, Shovlin has placed high importance on strong race pace in tomorrow’s race if the Silver Arrows are to secure a strong result.
“We will move up the grid a little for tomorrow as three of the cars ahead have penalties, but it will be all about race pace – if we don’t have that, then we’re in for a tough race. As always, we’ll be fighting hard to get every point that we can and maximise every opportunity in the race tomorrow.”