Three races, three one-twos. It's been a dream start to 2019 for Mercedes, and it's happened despite them not always having the best package. Ferrari appear to have the edge when it comes to power unit grunt, but Mercedes chief Toto Wolff reckons his team’s strides in cornering were what made the difference on race day in China.
The Silver Arrows emerged as the leading contender after Friday practice, with Valtteri Bottas the stronger of the two team mates, and they confirmed that in qualifying as they locked out the front row. It had been anticipated Ferrari would be able to use the long straight to attack Mercedes at the start of the race – but that scenario didn’t materialise.
Instead, the two Mercedes – with Lewis Hamilton jumping polesitter Bottas – moved away from the field and ended up securing the team’s 47th one-two finish as Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc simply didn’t have the pace to even get close to launching an attack.
“Yes [Ferrari’s pace came as a surprise] because I believe that their straight-line advantage, especially on the opening laps, would be a danger for us, and once DRS was enabled, even more,” said Wolff.
“But we didn’t see them coming anywhere near us. The advantage was the corners, that we were able to pull out of the crucial Turn 13 and in the fast corners get some gap and preserve it on the straight.
“I haven’t seen the numbers yet, but their straight-line performance is still very strong. In the race, not as strong as in qualifying, but still very impressive.
“As with every team, you need to get the balance right between the drag, power and downforce level. You need to have a draggy car to be going fast through the corners, but equally you mustn’t lose time on the straights. Getting that balance right is very difficult.”