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Toto Wolff Q&A: Mercedes won't be derailed by Singapore slip

20 Sep 2015

For the second time in the last four races, Mercedes finished a Grand Prix with neither of their drivers on the podium. But whereas the Silver Arrows could blame bad luck and circumstance in Hungary, they simply didn't seem to have the pace - or the reliability - in Singapore. However, as Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff explains, there's no reason for the world champions to fall into depression...

Q: Toto, there haven't been too many happy faces at Mercedes for the last two days...

Toto Wolff: Yes, but we also need to stay calm as this is a very specific circuit and the tyres operate differently to any other circuit - at least for us. We will race in Suzuka in one week and we haven't lost performance on the car.

Q: So you are confident that this performance today was purely circuit-related?

TW: I am always more on the pessimistic side, but I don't believe that you lose car performance from one race to the other so dramatically as we did - and I also don't believe that another team can find one and a half seconds in the same time. We have spoken to the drivers and both confirm that the degradation was massive - and in the end unexplainable for us. 

Q: Even if it's unlikely that the opposition have gained one and a half seconds, we have seen that Ferrari is pushing you pretty severely...

TW: Yes, we have also seen that in Monza. They have brought a new engine and clearly made a step forward. And I have no illusions that they will not develop the car further. But one thing is clear: we must not fall into depression - because you have just think back to Spa where they had a very difficult weekend. We will stay focused and never forget that we have a very solid team, car and engine. 

Q: Nico [Rosberg] has closed the gap in the championship a little bit to Lewis [Hamilton]. Will any tactics come into the game at a certain stage?

TW: No, we have always said that our drivers can race each other. And as it is rather unlikely that Sebastian will win every race from now on and Lewis will have more DNFs it will stay that way: no tactics. 

Q: Have you been able to analyse already what happened with Lewis' car?

TW: A minor bit - a clamp - broke and had a massive effect that caused him to retire. When it jumped off it caused a boost leak. Small part - big effect! But it is something that we have identified and that is good news as it has nothing to do with the performance of the engine. 

Q: Are you saying that this was a 'freak thing' that happened?

TW: Yes. We've been running this part for a long time. 

Q: How frightening was this weekend in reality - or have you brushed it off as a one-off?

TW: You cannot write it off as a one-off - but it would also be wrong that we are now 'profiled' by this. It is all about analysing and finding out why - but we go to Suzuka with no headaches other than maybe worrying about the typhoon that is in the forecast! 

Q: Lewis seemed to have been pretty optimistic during the race that he would be able to challenge for the win. What was your impression on the pit wall?

TW: I think the gap was pretty similar to qualifying. Sebastian [Vettel] managed his pace very well in the race and was able to pick it up twice after the safety car, so it would have been hard to challenge him. My guess is that we were better today than yesterday in qualifying - but still a bit off from the win.

Q: Even in retirement, Lewis appeared to be very confident...

TW: He has a good cushion to both Nico and Sebastian - but of course today was a bit of a slap. So next time we will appreciate victories even more! 

Q: We permanently hear that this race is the most demanding of the season - and the longest. Can it be that 61 laps is simply too much?

TW: Yes. Today we saw a two hour race and that is too long for any spectator. Make it one and a half hours just like all the races - simply scrap ten laps. Today it was almost an endurance race -at one point I expected sports cars to come out of the last corner! (laughs)