Wolff calls Mercedes performance ‘not good enough’ after disappointing Friday in Mexico
Having secured their sixth straight constructors’ title in Japan last time out, Lewis Hamilton could mathematically take his own sixth drivers’ title at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. But based on Friday’s running at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the chances look remote, with Mercedes’ best effort in Free Practice 2 over six-tenths adrift of Sebastian Vettel’s leading time for Ferrari.
That effort came from Hamilton’s Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas – still with a theoretical chance of becoming world champion himself this year – who survived a spin to finish FP2 0.614s off Vettel, with Hamilton a further three-tenths back, as the Ferraris set the pace across Friday.
One person who wasn’t surprised at the performance discrepancy, however, was Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff, who acknowledged that the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was not one of his squad’s happiest hunting grounds...
We know that it’s a difficult track for us. We’re just lacking the performance
“I think it’s one of our worst tracks,” Wolff said resignedly at the end of the first day of running in Mexico. “We had cold graining last year and we’re lacking, really, power here compared to the others.
“We’re not good enough,” he added. “We know that it’s a difficult track for us. We’re just lacking the performance.”
Hamilton led Free Practice 1 in Mexico, but Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was just 0.1s adrift – despite setting his time on the slower medium rubber compared to Hamilton’s softs – before Vettel then streaked away in FP2, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen 0.115s back in second.
And Hamilton appeared to concede that qualifying at least would be between Mercedes’ two rival teams.
“It’s not been a great day but this is how it is usually for us when we come here,” said Hamilton, who’s finished ninth and fourth in the past two editions of the Mexico Grand Prix, despite claiming his last two titles here in those years.
“I think we’re not massively far off the Red Bulls, but the Ferraris? They keep turning up their engine down the straights and the difference between us and them is… massive on the straight line.
“It’ll be interesting," he added, when asked about strategies for Sunday's race. “We have another DRS zone, so I hope that helps us get closer in the race, maybe. But position is important.”
So, with Mercedes on the back foot, it looks as though their drivers’ title celebrations may have to be deferred. But given that it was assured in Japan that one of his two drivers would become world champion this year, Wolff appeared unbothered about the potential delay…
“We need to give both [Valtteri and Lewis] a car that is reliable, that’s the most important, then fight it out on track,” said Wolff. “I don’t think we have a good enough package this weekend to be at the very front from a pure pace standpoint, but let’s see. If we do it in Austin, we do it in Austin.”