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Toto Wolff Q&A: Mercedes must get act together for race

21 Jun 2014

Two weeks ago Mercedes lost a race for the first time this season. On Saturday in Austria they missed out on pole for the first time in 2014. So are the Silver Arrows really starting to lose their edge, or will ‘business as usual’ be resumed on Sunday? Here’s what Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, had to say after qualifying in Spielberg…

Q: Toto, your old team Williams has put both their cars on the front row - how did you let that happen?

Toto Wolff: Let’s start with yesterday. We had been running really well yesterday - the gaps even seemed to have increased. This morning we started to work on the race set-up and obviously have put a foot wrong and have not been able to recover in the way that we would have wanted. There is not one thing to blame for this situation - it was a combination of many things: we have not started the day well and have not been able to recover, plus the drivers haven’t been able to put the laps together and a number of mistakes happened. Then you have another team out there that was already doing well on Friday and Saturday morning and they’ve got it right for qualifying. There you have it! I don’t know if they went very aggressive on their set-up but it’s my guess that they did. The major problem of the weekend - not only for us but also for many other teams - is the understeer and that was best handled by Williams. That translated into the front row.

Q: Lewis’s spin: was that something where the car contributed to the situation, or was his mistake?

TW: We didn’t see anything on the car. I think it was a bit down to bad luck. I think he was braking a bit later and had a bit more pressure and there was a bump. Then he lost the rear…

Q: So are Lewis’s Q3 issues just down to him desperately trying to get to the maximum out of things, or is there something that the team is doing differently?

TW: I think both our drivers are going for the maximum. It is in some ways a fierce competitive battle between the two for pole and wins and somehow both know that you have to push hard to beat your team mate. But you must not forget that there is not only your team mate out there - there are others out as well, either on a weekend or for the rest of the season. And I think this is exactly the moment when we have to look at our system. We had a couple of races where we have been the dominant force and now you see that we have lost the last race to Red Bull Racing, and here we have another team on pole position. So you can’t bank on it that you have - or had - a dominant car. And you cannot solely concentrate on the team-mate battle. You need to have a bit of a wider view.

Q: What do you mean by ‘looking at your system’?

TW: If your main ‘enemy’ is your team mate, obviously what happens is that you’re trying to gain an advantage when it matters - and it matters in Q3. But it is different when there is another team out there - or other drivers - who can beat you. Then you have to push with the sheer power of the whole system - and that is what we have to look at.

Q: Lewis has always been a near flawless qualifier. Has his struggle something to do with today’s cars?

TW: I am sure. What we generally hear from the drivers is that today’s cars are more difficult to drive with the torque than in previous years. Is it this particular car more than others, I am not sure. But we have seen quite a number of run offs this weekend so I think it’s a bit of a general situation.

Q: Both your drivers have the hope that the set-up they’ve chosen is not so good for qualifying but much better for the race - is that so?

TW: Many things come together - and we’ve learned from Montreal. Clearly understeer on the car doesn’t help you for a quick lap, but it might help you for the race. We had that trauma last year: having a fantastic car for one lap in qualifying and then struggling in the race. So it will be interesting to see what happens with the two Williams cars tomorrow. Believe me, it is much more welcomed to do well in the race - there is where you get the points. I think our car, pace wise, is very good - you can see that the gaps to other competitors is still pretty visible - so we have to get our act together tomorrow in the race.