Mercedes explain their crucial edge over Ferrari in China
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.
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“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.”
Wolff was pleased with the progress Mercedes made as the weekend went on, allowing them to perform on a circuit that was different to those raced at so far this season – but he remains wary of the threat Ferrari pose going forward.
“We had good race pace on the Friday, but it wasn’t the completely dominant picture,” he said. “It was solid, maybe had a tiny edge over Ferrari, but not what we’ve seen in the race. The work we have done for the race has been good. The car is solid on the tyres, and especially in Shanghai, which is a totally different track to Bahrain, we were able to have the right package.
“But although we have scored three one-twos, I’m saying again, and maybe it’s not very popular, but I think this is not what we’re seeing in the picture. The Ferrari is very strong, and we expect this fight for pole position and as a consequence race wins to continue.”
Mercedes currently lead the constructors’ championship on 130 points, 57 clear of Ferrari, after three races with 18 still to go.