Toto Wolff admits any long-run pace advantage Mercedes has in the Canadian Grand Prix could be negated by Ferrari’s straight-line speed.
Sebastian Vettel took pole position on Saturday — his first in 17 races — and will start alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row with Charles Leclerc in third. Mercedes appeared to have the quickest car over a race distance during Friday practice but with Ferrari quick in a straight line, Wolff says it will be tough to pass in order to utilize that pace.
“They were very good last year already and we knew the straight-line speed was going to be very difficult to defend against,” Wolff said. “To summarize, we were losing six-tenths on the straight and trying to make it up in the corners but four-tenths was not enough.
“Our long-runs looked very good, yes, particularly when you look at some of our competitors, whose tires were melting away. But it’s still about getting past, and if you can’t get past it’s going to be very difficult. But I’m hopeful that our long runs will give us a certain benefit that we need to extract.”
With Valtteri Bottas starting in sixth place, Wolff says the start will be crucial to Mercedes’ hopes of extending its run of victories.
“The start is an opportunity here and I think if we are able to extract more performance than maybe around the pit stops we can do something. But the medium tire is going to go for a long time, so that becomes a bit of a question mark. Overall, if you are not able to gain a position at the start for Lewis and for Valtteri, it could be a very difficult Sunday.
“(Bottas in sixth) hurts a lot. Also because the Renaults and the Hondas have shown quite some straight-line speed. (Daniel) Ricciardo is starting on softs, I believe, so he will eventually run into trouble in his first stint; (Pierre) Gasly also. We may be able to recover on strategy with those two cars but from the on it’s going to get very difficult. But also with these two you need to consider that within the first five to 10 laps they will be very fast.”
Although voicing concerns racing Ferrari, Wolff says he is not worried about the reliability of Mercedes’ new power unit despite a failure on Lance Stroll’s Racing Point in FP3.
“I think it came as a surprise to us but we have been running those engines on the dynos and still believe what we have seen on the dynos counts. You can’t turn them down or run them differently because of fear of failure, because that is very difficult to judge. So that will not change how we run the engine.”