Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admits he understands how Mercedes’ rivals felt at the start of the V6 power unit era, such was Ferrari’s straight-line speed advantage at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Ferrari locked out the front row at Spa-Francorchamps and was clearly faster than Mercedes in sectors one and three, where straight-line speed has a major influence. Ferrari’s low-drag car concept meant Mercedes made some time back in the middle sector where downforce was needed, but with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza next, Wolff says he expects Ferrari to be even stronger at its home race.
“I don’t think you can find 15 kph in the next five days,” Wolff said. “But it is what it is, no complaining. We have just got to prepare for Monza the best we can, knowing that it is not a track that will suit us. It will favor Ferrari but we have got to do the best possible job.
“On the Sunday we are looking much closer, even on the high-power circuits, so I still think that we have got to give it all we have to hopefully win the race in Monza.
“I know now a little bit how Red Bull felt in 2014 and 2015 when you are on the back foot on the straights.”
On top of the speed deficit, Wolff concedes he has concerns over the latest Mercedes power unit, with an updated engine introduced at Spa suffering failures on both Sergio Perez’s Racing Point on Friday and then Robert Kubica’s Williams during qualifying.
“Not a good weekend. We introduced Phase 3 of our power unit and we had two failures on Checo’s (Perez) and Robert’s cars which are not understood. It didn’t compromise us massively; it did a tiny bit. We were not taking any risks in the race but it was certainly not a comfortable situation, because the failures looked to be different and are not analyzed of yet and understood.”
However, Wolff says he is satisfied with the way Mercedes secured a double podium in Belgium and managed to beat one Ferrari, even if Lewis Hamilton was within a second of race winner Charles Leclerc at the checkered flag.
“If you would have given me a second and third in Spa, I would have taken it before the race, because we know that our package compared to the Ferraris with the straight-line speed is inferior. Look at Turn 1 and then the following straight, Sebastian can’t be more off the line than he was and he was still able to overtake us.
“Having said that, if we would have really optimized our race — which you can only do post-race by being super intelligent and saying what could have been — then maybe we could have pitted one or two laps earlier. Maybe the pit stop could have been a little bit quicker and we would have been on his gearbox for the last two laps. But there are so many ifs that I must say I am overall satisfied for us with the second and third place. We take that.”