What a crazy qualifying session in Baku today, after struggling during free practice session yesterday and this morning, the Silver Arrows were however able to make a great comeback.
WOOOOOOOO! HOW'S THAT FOR A COMEBACK! pic.twitter.com/vB7FnJ9tYx— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 5, 2021
Seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton will start from second place on the grid while the Finn Valtteri Bottas will be 10th.
The team “did not sacrifice Valtteri to give a tow to Lewis”, as explained by Mercedes’ team boss during a virtual media session, which included MotorLat.com:
“Since the very beginning, Bottas and Lewis have the choice of deciding who’s running first and who’s running second. This week it was Lewis’ turn to decide and he chooses to go out second, of course.”
“We don’t make the decision, it changes races after race and it’s a drivers’ choice,” commented Wolff.
Up until qualifying, this started off as a bit of a “disaster weekend” – as Lewis Hamilton defined it – but what changed exactly?
Toto explained that the team had to really “crunch through all the numbers” and try different engineering programs, while “listening to the drivers’ feedback” to try and optimize their pace and get the car in a “decent place”.
Baku is probably one of the weakest circuits for Mercedes, so it will be essential for the Championship’s picture to try and maximize their performances here.
“I believe this Championship is going to go long”
“It is important to collect as many points as possible and make sure that even in circuits that are not so strong for us, like this one, we don’t lose too much. And then obviously it is essential that we lead in those circuits where our car is stronger.
“I haven’t looked at the Championship points once this year – it will be a weekend by weekend battle”.
Yesterday during the free practice sessions, Mercedes was seemingly struggling with their qualifying pace but their long runs were much better. So, when asked whether he expects to be quicker than Red Bull in tomorrow’s race, Toto replied:
“I very much hope so,” then he added, “we had a quick car yesterday in the long runs, we had good tyres and we were pretty fast in the straights. This should put us in a good position tomorrow”.
“However, no matter where we start, we are still 90 minutes away from the finishing line," concluded Wolff.
Hamilton and Bottas are running two different wings levels, yet Wolff doesn’t believe this is the reason for the pace gap between the two.
“I don’t think the different wing level made a huge impact on today’s pace, but tomorrow it might generate a greater gap.
“The reason why they were so far apart is that the car was tricky all weekend…Lewis found the confidence for qualifying while Valtteri didn’t.
“The reverse happened in Monaco, where Valtteri had more confidence and was feeling better than Lewis. The rear doesn’t explain any of the differences,” concluded the Austrian.
Mercedes Team Principal was asked about the drama that has been going on for weeks now between them and Red Bull. He laconically responded:
“Well I think the flexi-wing saga starts to bore everyone, myself included”
“I guess we will see what happens, whether we’ll lodge a complaint or not. I don’t know what was on their [Red Bull] car that made them so quick. We’ll see tomorrow”.
Going back to track action, during the post-session debrief Toto was asked about Ferrari. The Maranello team has seemingly found a better pace and is now battling for higher positions on the grid. Should this cause any concern in terms of Championship points?
“You should always be concerned about Ferrari”
“They are pretty decent in the second sector and they showed a good race pace even in Monaco. We must acknowledge the steps they’ve made and let’s see what their performance is gonna be tomorrow,” said Wolff.