Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says his team will be on “full attack” in the British Grand Prix given the threat from Ferrari after an extremely close qualifying session.
Lewis Hamilton secured the 76th pole position of his career on his final lap in Q3, edging out Sebastian Vettel by just 0.044s. Kimi Raikkonen was only 0.098s slower than Hamilton in third place, and with Valtteri Bottas starting from fourth Wolff says Mercedes cannot approach the race defensively due to the pace Ferrari has shown.
“We will be going full attack tomorrow,” Wolff said. “Part of that could well be two different strategies and trying to be aggressive.
“If we can stay in the lead, Lewis in Silverstone is a force. Obviously if you get overtaken at the start or on the first lap then the whole thing becomes trickier.
“[Track position is] very important. You can see that with Red Bull the car that was in the lead, Max [Verstappen] in Austria was managing his pace and had no problems with the tires, and the other car — the same car — attacking and trying to make it past Kimi had heavy blistering on an identical car. Everything is easier if you control the pace from the front.”
With high temperatures expected on Sunday and Mercedes having been hampered by blistering in Austria, Wolff emphasized the need for Hamilton to hold the lead in order to manage his tires.
“Well the heat is not what our car likes. You can see the difference in performance between FP3 and qualifying, with 10C in higher track temperatures. The same ambient is predicted for tomorrow, so it could be a difficult race for all cars.
“We saw some blistering on the Ferrari yesterday and their long run wasn’t spectacular. Ours was a bit better, but I think it’s about where you end up after lap one and whether you can manage it from the front or if you have to attack. The moment you have to attack, you are more under threat with degradation from the lead car.”
Despite the threat from Ferrari, Wolff says he is unconcerned by the pace shown by the Scuderia at Silverstone as he is expecting a close fight between the top teams for the remainder of the season.
“[Ferrari was] also close last year. Remember we went into the summer shutdown and they were in the lead in the championship. We see the same again, it is a tough battle for the lead of the championship at the moment, with Red Bull shining also occasionally. Insofar I have no doubt this will continue.”