Mercedes cautious about reliability after performing ‘open-heart surgery’ at last two races
Eight races. Eight wins. This has been a majestic season for reigning world champions Mercedes so far, but it hasn’t been plain-sailing for the Silver Arrows in terms of reliability, leading Team Principal Toto Wolff to be cautious ahead of Austria…
Last year’s race at the Red Bull Ring was painful for the silver cars. Having locked out the front row, Valtteri Bottas retired from the lead with a hydraulics problem before Lewis Hamilton parked up after a drop in pressure in the fuel system.
They have so far escaped race day pain in 2019, but there have been a couple of niggling problems earlier in the weekend, such as in Canada when Mercedes had to pull Hamilton’s car apart before the race and only finished their final check just minutes before the start of the Grand Prix – which he ultimately went on to win.
Then in France, they found a sensor issue on Hamilton’s car before qualifying, which required the team to take the engine and gearbox off the car and then disassemble a series of little switches to rectify the problem.
For two weekends in a row now, our mechanics had to perform the equivalent of 'open-heart surgery' on our cars.
The rebuilds were so complex, Wolff likened them to open-heart surgery – so it’s no wonder, then, that he was refusing to get carried away.
“Our result in last year's Austrian Grand Prix was the low point of the 2018 season,” said Wolff. “A double DNF after a promising front-row lockout meant that we left a lot of points on the table.
“The race was a cruel reminder how quickly things can go wrong in our sport and that reliability and performance go hand-in-hand in Formula 1.
“This year, our race finishing record has been good, but it would be complacent to ignore the fact that for two weekends in a row now, our mechanics had to perform the equivalent of 'open-heart surgery' on our cars.
“We've faced a number of different issues on different components, each of which could have easily caused us to retire, so we need to get on top of those challenges as quickly as possible.”
Mercedes have secured six one-two finishes this season and currently lead Ferrari by 140 points in the constructors’ championship. If they win in Austria, they will equal the all-time record of successive victories, currently held by McLaren, who won 11 in a row in 1988.