Ferrari are Monza favourites but Mercedes can fight them, says Hamilton
Mercedes surprised themselves with the pace they demonstrated at Spa-Francorchamps. Yes, Ferrari won, but they didn’t have it all their own way as Lewis Hamilton pushed Charles Leclerc very close. It’s for that reason the Silver Arrows reckon they can be a thorn in the Scuderia’s side when Formula 1 rolls into their backyard at Monza…
The final two races of the European season traditionally go the way of the team with the best power unit. It is why Mercedes have had so much success at Spa and Monza in the hybrid era. But there’s a new horse in town, of the prancing variety, this season with Ferrari now top of the pile in terms of power.
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At Spa, it was clear their engine gave them an advantage on the straights. Some speculated it was more than half a second per lap. But Mercedes, and in particular Lewis Hamilton, were able to make their tyres last longer, and that made them a threat in the closing stages. Hamilton was less than half a second behind winner Leclerc, and in DRS range as they crossed the line, with Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas third.
If you would have given me a second and third in Spa, I would have taken it before the race, because we know that our package compared to the Ferraris with the straight-line speed is inferior
Some hope for Mercedes at Monza, then, even though the circuit only has 11 corners compared to Spa's 19.
“It’s all straights, so it’s going to be a happy weekend for Ferrari, most likely in that respect,” said Hamilton. “This weekend, in qualifying we’re losing over a second a lap. So, there’s not much me and Valtteri can do in that instance and there’s not a lot of corners there [at Monza] to catch that up.
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“So, it’ll be interesting. In the next few days we’ve got to make some drastic improvements to our straight speed, somehow. I don’t know if that’s possible – but if anyone can do it, it’s our team. So, we’ll do our best. We’ve got slightly better degradation than them and it’s a longer race, so hopefully we can have another close race like we’ve had this weekend.”
Wolff doubts whether Mercedes can make the kind of gains Hamilton is after in the few days before Monza, but the result gives him hope the Silver Arrows can be in the fight in Italy.
“If you would have given me a second and third in Spa, I would have taken it before the race, because we know that our package compared to the Ferraris with the straight-line speed is inferior,” said Wolff.
“I know now a little bit how Red Bull felt in 2014 and 2015 when you are on the back foot on the straights.
“I don’t think you can find 15kp/h in the next five days. But it is what it is, no complaining. We have just got to prepare for Monza the best we can, knowing that it is not a track that will suit us.
“It will favour Ferrari but we have got to do the best possible job. On the Sunday we are looking much closer, even on the high power circuits, so I still think that we have got to give it all we have to hopefully win the race in Monza.”
Mercedes suffered two failures during the Belgian Grand Prix, having debuted their new specification engine at Spa with their works team and customers, meaning they didn’t push the unit during the race.
“We introduced Phase 3 of our power unit and we had two failures on Checo’s [Sergio Perez] and Robert’s [Kubica] cars which are not understood,” said Wolff. “It didn’t compromise us massively, it did a tiny bit. We were not taking any risks in their race but it was certainly not a comfortable situation because the failures looked to be different and are not analysed of yet and understood.”