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2018 F1

Mercedes’ paranoia: Blame and Acceptance

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Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have had some interesting remarks about Ferrari, after the latter’s spurt in performance at the German Grand Prix weekend in Hockenheim. While Lewis Hamilton had a hydraulic pressure issue that escalated in a failure of his power steering causing a stoppage in the qualifying, the issue has lead to a lot of intriguing questions about Mercedes’ reliability. However, what has been more interesting has been the remarks on Ferrari’s performance.

Post qualifying Lewis Hamilton said “We didn’t know that Ferrari would be so fast on the straights. I think Valtteri did a great job. They (Ferrari) made up all the time on the straights, which is a new thing, to make three tenths up on the straights so aggressively, without a new engine.”

The nature of the Hockenheim circuit is such, that the first half of the lap is flat out on the throttle while the second half has a bit of straight-line sped followed by a complex section of tricky corners. Ideally it is a circuit where both Red Bull Racing team and Ferrari looked strong at. However, the latest remarks insinuate trouble. But this is not the first time he has had a bad weekend and made a remark at Ferrari or their driver. In Silverstone, the Briton suggest, Kimi Raikkonen crashed into him deliberately, which led to a back lash on social media, making him retract his statement and leading him to apologise publicly.

In terms of whether the qualifying issue was a driver error, Toto Wolff confirmed that “definitely it was not Lewis’s driving”, and explained the problem exist before the Briton had his moment at Turn 1. On being asked if they arrived this weekend thinking they could clinch pole position, Hamilton confirmed ‘Yes, we did.’ This comes after his comments on Thursday, where he mentioned Ferrari’s starting performance was exceptional.

When Toto was asked about whether they expected to be three tenths of a second down on the Ferrari in pace, he said ““To be precise, it was five tenths-on the straights.” After being probed about Ferrari’s advantage, he said “I’ve heard Christian [Horner] complaining the last four years about straightline speed, so I don’t want to go there.”

He further added “we need to expect everything and we need to find out how we can improve our power output. And I want to look at Ferrari and want to look at ourselves. “We need to find out how we can increase out power output, and not one single second I want to look at Ferrari, I want to look at ourselves, look at Mercedes and say ‘is there anything we have missed?”

“From the mindset we need to have to say what can we do in order to achieve that power output, rather than looking over and say as a default, that the engine, that it is not legal.” So we need to look into ourselves and see how we can achieve that and if we cannot achieve that. How can somebody else achieve that?”

Commenting on the overall outcome, the Mercedes Team Principal “If we want to win this championship, or stay in the hunt in this championship, we’ve got a severe warning today in terms of what we have seen.”

However, the question is why are Mercedes so surprised, there are circuits where they looked strong and their performance was compromised by either poor tyre management, due to strategy errors or technical issues. The Silver Arrows had a more than a warning on Ferrari’s pace, since the upgraded units were introduced in Montreal to which Wolff said, “We haven’t seen it at as obvious or as blatant.”

“There have been a lot of shortcomings from our side and we should have not had the two DNFs in Austria, when we were running solid one and two. If we would have won the race, we would have scored a few points and we would have been in lead for both the championships (Drivers and Constructors’)”, he added.

“But this is how it goes in motor racing, the ‘what if’ and we just need to improve. All of us need to improve, on the reliability and robustness of the car, we need to minimise strategic mistakes, we need to increase the output of performance from the chassis and the engine.”

The Silver Arrows Team Principal commented “They (Ferrari) have a great power unit and huge performances. We were looking good in the slower corners, but we were not able to match their straight line performance. Valtteri was exceptional in third sector, and this is why he was close to the pole position. But we need to start to look at things and try to improve.”

Developing the engine in terms of performance can take around 2-3 years, and on being asked if it were a worry in playing catch up to Ferrari, Wolff said “Ya it is a worry, but we have seen that they have been capable do it, pretty much within in a few races, independent from the power unit. Because one car, Raikkonen’s car has the first spec (engine) in the car and Seb’s has a new spec in the car. They have brought new bits to the track today that they’ve put into all Ferrari powered cars, and all of them have gone into Q3. So that is an extraordinary or really exceptional development and if they were capable of achieving that, we need to be capable of achieving that.”

Ferrari are unlikely to comment on these suggestions, because initially in the season they were accused of maybe artificially boosting their engine with extra energy through their twin-battery setup. While there was no proof, FIA investigate into the issue, and clarified there was nothing illegal with Ferrari’s engine or their power output.

As far as other Ferrari powered cars go, the Haas chassis is similar to Ferrari’s 2016 challenger, and the Haas drivers have not performed exceptionally until Paul Ricard or Austria. The Alfa Romeo Sauber team’s performance is exceptional, since Charles Leclerc is exceptionally talented and their chassis took a long while to be improved. All six Ferrari powered cars, haven’t been lucky all the time, but the few weekends where it matters, they seem to manage top 10 finishes, a record Mercedes held for a long time as a works team and manufacturer.

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