Zandvoort began for Mercedes definitely on a better note than Spa. With Lewis Hamilton P4 in the qualifying, and George Russell 6th, this is good starting ground for the team based in Brackley.
In a selected media pen here, Toto Wolff, the team principal of Mercedes, answered some interesting questions in regards to where they are in terms of understanding the car, what will it mean for the development of it as well as what are they targeting this weekend.
First, when asked about where Lewis could’ve ended up if not the spin of Checo Perez before the end of Q3, he responded: “I think with our car, when we’ve looked at it, we were actually a tenth up before the incident. Now you don't know how we would have come out of it. But I think we were definitely playing for a pole position. And that's, that's a good feeling. You know, we want more. And I think we could have been there or there abouts.”
He was then asked if weekends like Zandvoort were confusing for the team. Having a setback in Spa, showcasing such a “good performance” here in the Netherlands must have an impact on the understanding of the car. To that, he said: “It's quite interesting because sometimes those super tough weekends like Spa give you the biggest clues. And we were quite beaten up by Saturday in Spa and so a little bit light at the end of the tunnel on race day.
"But we understand more. And we predicted that this would be a much better race for us based on the learning of Spa. And and here we go. We are we are right there. I think we were we had a competitive qualifying car. And as it looks from yesterday, quick car in the race too. And so the predictions were right. And I think we just need to take this forward. As we speak, it's being it's being looked at from a scientific point of view. What's the right way forward for us? What does it mean for the current concept? But I'd rather be confused and quick than slow clear."
Asked about how much exactly did the team learned from that and what type of understanding did they gained, Toto responded: “We developed the car with a lot of downforce, with a lower ride height. And sometimes you can’t run the low ride height because you're hitting the ground. This is as simple as it is. And then you have you need to take compromises in a setup that again screws you up on either either the low speed or high speed. So you're never kind of in the sweet spot with the car where it operates over the whole lap.
"And you can see also here, we're very competitive in most of the corners, but through the high speed section and seven we're lacking a lot of performance towards Ferrari and Verstappen. And we know that that is where the car is the weakness, calm kind of balance it out and functions everywhere because this is obviously not the case for our competitors. So I would say Red Bull probably is the biggest, the biggest advantage.”
Asked specifically by motorlat.com what did this mean for the rest of the season and the development of the car, he said: “Now, for performance, it is fundamentally ingrained in the car concept as it is. But now understanding better how everything interacts, I think we can tune the car more precisely to fit to target of the performance window.
*Having said that, there will be races that are better for us like here, there might be some of them on the calendar that will be very difficult. Austin is something that we discussed, can be a very difficult one. So you need to stay realistic in my opinion. We won't be fighting for positions on all the other tracks, but at least we need to really get us back to this point for next year.”
Lastly, he was asked about how much will all of this impact their development of the car. To that, Wolff responded: “Very much because on one hand, you need to rely on your tools that have played a big part in winning eight constructive titles or seven driver championships. But they have let us down this year, our car came out three wheeling, basically. And so I think we will, we have leapfrogged in our learning. But it's still ongoing.
"So we are in September now, we aren't completely sure what we’re going for next year. And it is obviously much easier if you're like Red Bull, where you can say 'my car is the benchmark at the moment, let's continue to develop' and even if the returns are diminishing for their project, it's still at least the right slope. And this is something we are not yet quite 100% sure. So it's definitely not ideal.”