Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “We didn’t get the job done right and went backwards in terms of our performance”

Toto Wolff has stated that his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team “didn’t get the job done right” in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as the Brackley-based team failed to build on the success of the São Paulo Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell qualifying in fifth and sixth-place respectively.

The W13 struggled to match the straight line speed of Scuderia Ferrari and Oracle Red Bull Racing throughout the qualifying session, the Yas Marina Circuit also re-presented the issue of porpoising for Mercedes as both Russell and Hamilton struggled with the levels of bouncing experienced on the W13.

Wolff revealed that the lack of straight line speed on the W13 was caused by the team opting to run a high downforce and drag setup throughout qualifying. The Team Principal also noted that a brake temperature issue would need to be investigated by the team ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“Today didn’t go our way unfortunately. We didn’t get the job done right and went backwards in terms of our performance, while our competitors made a step forward. We opted for a higher downforce and higher drag setup, and it was just too slow on the straights during the session. We’ve also had issues with the brakes that we need to investigate.

Despite their lack of pace in qualifying, Wolff remains hopeful the team’s chosen set-up for the weekend will push them closer in the fight with Ferrari and Red Bull, in which Mercedes will be hoping to draw on the strong long run pace shown across the weekend in practice.

“The weekend looked positive for us so far, especially during the earlier sessions but in the end, we didn’t deliver when it came down to qualifying. All in all, a disappointing day for the team. We want to be in the front, fighting for victories. Hopefully, our set-up will benefit from the earlier start time of the race tomorrow and the higher temperatures, which seemed to result in better car performance for us so far here in Abu Dhabi.”

Andrew Shovlin: “We’re still hopeful that we can have a race where we are looking forwards not backwards”

Despite the team’s high downforce set-up not paying off in qualifying, Andrew Shovlin has defended the choice to limit their straight line speed, stating that the decision was made by the team in order to improve their prospects in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director noted that the team has also struggled to adapt to the cooling temperatures that the evening sessions have brought across the weekend. Due to the team’s struggles on a cooler track this weekend, Shovlin is hopeful that with a hotter track expected for the Grand Prix, due to the earlier start time of the race, Mercedes will still be able to influence the final outcome of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

We had a solid FP3, looking like we were sitting between the Red Bulls and Ferraris on single lap pace so it’s disappointing to end up 5th and 6th. Through the weekend it has felt like we are at our best on the hot track and struggling to find the grip in the cooler evening conditions.

“The decisions we made with the car setup are biased towards race pace, and on a long run everything is running hotter anyway so we’re still hopeful that we can have a race where we are looking forwards not backwards, but a third row start for both cars means that we have our work cut out if we are to challenge at the front.

Credit: Steve Etherington