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Mercedes must address ongoing start woes - Toto Wolff Q&A

13 Jun 2016

Not for the first time this year, Mercedes struggled to get away from the line cleanly when the lights went out in Canada, allowing Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to springboard from third into an early lead. It's a dynamic that the team need to analyse, according to Mercedes-Benz head of motorsport Toto Wolff - particularly as Ferrari's subsequent pace proved they have closed the gap once more on the Silver Arrows...

Q: Toto, what is wrong with your clutches? It looked like your guys were almost stood still at the start, while Sebastian Vettel rocketed away...

Toto Wolff: Well, we have invented rules to make starts more unpredictable. And to be fair we had some great starts at some of the last races, but Canada wasn't great. We have to analyse what happened. Ferrari had a much better start - we have to accept that.

Q: Is it related to the sort of issues you had at the start of the year?

TW: I think it was rather a slip today - simply not getting it 100 percent right. The initial getaway from Ferrari looked great so maybe they have some kind of I don't know what. We have to look at it. 

Q: Moving to the first corner, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg touched again. Nico described it as a hard move, but ultimately fair. What is your view?

TW: Yes, it was a hard manoeuvre. Lewis said that he had understeer. From a team perspective when you make the front row of the grid and come out of the first corner in P2 and P9 - that is not pleasant to say the least. But for me it feels like deja vu, as we are having these discussions after every race. That's probably what you get if you let your guys race - then they do. As long as they don't crash out like they did in Barcelona, we are fine with it. 

Q: Could it be that Nico sacrificed his position in order to avoid a similar situation to Barcelona?

TW: Turn 1 in Canada is a difficult place. There is a concrete run-off area. If there was a wall there you would definitely think again about taking chances there. If you are on the inside you dictate the line.

Q: Nico said that his cockpit was lighting up like a Christmas tree during the race - that almost every warning light seemed to be on…

TW: Yes, he had every thinkable warning on the dash. Our guess it that him running wide and over the grass at Turn 1 blocked some of the cooling, so he had warnings for calipers, gears, discs - everything you can imagine. That settled a bit - but at some point the fuel issue came on top. 

Q: How did Nico manage these warnings?

TW: Such a situation is distracting for the driver, and with the amount of lights blinking he asked if this was for real - and we told him it was. But we managed never to cross any limit where the engine would have taken serious damage. It all was manageable. 

Q: Ferrari's call to pit Sebastian Vettel under the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) provoked a lot of debate. Was it ever a consideration for you?

TW: No, we would not have done it. The two-stop strategy was the fastest strategy by a couple of seconds, but it was clear that this VSC came a bit early - and it was too early for us in respect of the best possible two-stop strategy. This is why we decided to stay out. And then we changed the strategy completely.

Q: So what indications did you have that Hamilton's tyres would last 46 laps?

TW: After Friday's running we kind of understood that there was a chance with these low temperatures, but to be honest until ten laps before the chequered flag we still weren't completely sure. But what gave us confidence was that the tyre temperature didn't drop. That, and Fernando Alonso was kind of a guinea pig for us (laughs). He did seven more laps than Lewis, so we guessed that if he went over the cliff we could react. Clearly the soft tyre is really robust. 

Q: And what caused the slow puncture on Nico's car?

TW: It was a cut, very likely from debris. 

Q: How do you view Nico's attempts to pass Max Verstappen at the end of the race?

TW: Nico was marginal on fuel, so he had to back off at some point in the race - and then he came back and made his move on Verstappen. But Verstappen was defending very well. Nico tried a late braking, but then lost the car.

Q: How do you see Nico's situation after three difficult races? After winning the first four, suddenly he is struggling to make the podium…

TW: These are those kind of questions that immediately pop up! Remember: he won seven races in a row and everybody was writing about the ‘phenomenon'. Now after only three not-so-easy races you better keep quiet. Anything else would be unfair.

Q: Lewis was behind Sebastian Vettel for quite a number of laps. Did you get the impression that Ferrari have made gains after the engine upgrades they introduced?

TW: They have gained - and so have Renault. In terms of engine power they almost equal us. But let's see what the next race brings, because Baku is obviously a power sensitive track. It will get very interesting there!


WATCH: Highlights of the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada 2016

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