Toto Wolff has opened up on the lack of changes Mercedes made to their W13 vehicle after Lewis Hamilton’s horror show on Sunday. The Silver Arrows experienced a nightmare day, with their star driver poised to start the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday in 16th place. And that’s already dealt a blow to his hopes of securing F1 title glory.
Hamilton had gone into qualifying for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on a high after finishing third in Bahrain last time out, behind Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Yet the Brit was unable to repeat those heroics, experiencing a tough afternoon as he struggled to get to grips with his vehicle.
Prior to the session, Wolff had insisted Mercedes wouldn’t be making any big adjustments to their vehicle – despite trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin suggesting they could pull off a series of ‘quick fixes’.
And now, speaking after Hamilton failed to reach Q2 without an incident for the first time since the 2009 British Grand Prix, the Austrian has opened up on the decision not to tweak too much behind the scenes.
“We were experimenting with set-ups to find out where the sweet spot of the car is,” Wolff said.
“So on Lewis’ side they went a bit bolder and the outcome was that basically they had no rear-end in the car, and that explains that big lap time deficit.
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“You can see between Lewis’ and George’s performance there was not huge set-up changes that happened but they were big enough to have dramatic consequences on the performance of the car, between going out in Q1 and making it solidly into Q3.
“That’s why this car is tricky to set up.
“We had a lower drag rear wing, we took the gurney off but still it wasn’t enough to shave more drag off the car.
“But generally I would say this isn’t a single problem.
“We have many parts of the car that don’t work, that we don’t understand, they don’t perform enough, and this is not where we all expect the car to be.”
Hamilton was in a downbeat mood after the qualifying session, admitting he now expected the race in Jeddah on Sunday to be a difficult afternoon.
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“It’s probably going to be a so-so race, it’s probably not going to be that great,” he stated.
“Maybe I’ll start from the pitlane and change the car again, make sure it doesn’t handle the way it just did.
“So much can happen. But I just apologise to my team – everyone worked so hard, and then when you don’t deliver for them, it’s gutting.”
Hamilton also said driving the W13 car was more difficult than he’d previously experienced.
“The car just wasn’t underneath me,” said the 37-year-old who is targeting a historic eighth title this season.
“It was just difficult to drive all of a sudden, way more difficult than ever before.
“I just didn’t feel the car underneath me in qualifying. Struggled with balance, the car was nervous, something just nowhere.”
Sergio Perez finished top of qualifying, with the Red Bull star now hoping to emerge victorious from the main event on Sunday.
Perez said: “It’s been a tough weekend in Bahrain, where we were so disappointed to miss both cars.
“But the team didn’t put their heads down. We kept pushing.
“We felt we were not as strong as we feel we’re going to be in the race.
“So, it’s already a very good sign to be on pole.”
He added: “We’ve been focusing more on race pace than quali.
“We feel that we’ve given away some quality performance to gain in the race.
“But obviously, I expect these two [Ferraris] are going to be very strong. I really hope that we can have a strong race tomorrow.”