Mercedes’ Toto Wolff claims that the inability of Ferrari to convert a front row lock-out into victory in the Italian Grand Prix was in part due to improvements made by his team after Belgium.
Sebastian Vettel took a comfortable victory at Spa-Francorchamps 10 days ago despite Lewis Hamilton qualifying on pole position, but the roles were reversed at Monza where Hamilton overtook Kimi Raikkonen in the closing laps and eased away for a crucial win. With the Ferrari fastest in Belgium, Raikkonen and Vettel also started on the front row at Monza but Wolff says gains made by Mercedes between the two races should not be underestimated.
“It shows that the racing happens on Sunday,” Wolff said. “I’m very proud of the work the team have done. All the engine guys and the chassis guys from Spa to Monza. We have understood the car better, we have understood the tires better. We’ve added some performance and even if [in qualifying] we didn’t show it because we couldn’t qualify on pole, I felt that we’d done some good work over the last couple of days.
“I would have also said that if we hadn’t won. Nevertheless, we didn’t have the quickest car but [in the race] we did. We had a reliable car, we had a car that was good on the tires. There was no blistering on our tires, unlike the Ferrari, and brilliant execution from both drivers and the team.”
While Wolff says the Mercedes was more competitive in race trim he admits part of that seems to be because Ferrari cannot show the same level of performance on a Sunday that it has in qualifying.
“It looks like the performance they are able to deploy on one lap is maybe not something they can replicate throughout the race. I don’t want to go any further because it could be read in a different way, like I’m trying to find excuses. But they certainly seemed to have a very good car [in qualifying] and a good car [in the race]. But we haven’t seen Sebastian perform in a car without any damage.”
However, the Mercedes team principal concedes he wasn’t expecting to see such a turnaround from Saturday to Sunday at Monza, as the Ferrari had looked so strong for much of the weekend.
“No, I don’t understand it. The performance pattern completely changed [from qualifying to the race] and I haven’t got an explanation yet. Maybe the clever people will know it but I think we need to analyze it.”