Wolff: Stability will bring the pack together

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff believes stability is the answer for creating a more competitive Formula 1, not regular rule changes.

The series is determined to bring in an overhaul from 2021, but it was announced recently that the deadline for this had been moved back from June to late October.

A budget cap is one of the major features which Liberty Media want to bring into the sport, and while Wolff agrees with it, he also thinks that ripping up the rule book and starting again just to try and reel in the top three teams is a bad idea.

“The default reaction in the past when a team or the big three teams were running away with the championship is that we change the regulations, because you believe that by changing the regulations the others may catch up,” Wolff explained to Motorsport.com.

“But as in the past, teams lobby for change because they believe rolling the dice can be an advantage for them. But we look at the 2019 regulation and the 2018 regulations and none of that has happened.
“The teams that were in front, they increased the gaps they had, so we are back to square one. We are making that mistake over and over again.”

Wolff is adamant that history proves his point and shows that some of the greatest cars have come when the regulations had been stable for a period of time.

“There is one single key that makes the racing better and that is a field that is bunched up, where there is not a big gap between the top teams and the smaller teams,” he explained. “The only way of doing that is leave the rules alone.

“Every time you change the regs, the big teams with more resource will run away.

“Maybe there is an outlier from time to time that one team looks good and we have seen that with Alfa Romeo [this year] which looked very good in testing in Barcelona, but then because of the sheer might of our resource, Ferrari and Red Bull, the rate of development is much steeper [and we have overtaken them].

“So the only way of really having proper racing is don’t change the rules. We’ve seen the 2012 season and there were six different winners and the tyres, fair enough, were a bit of an unknown, but the longer the rules stay stable the more performance is going to converge.”

However, Wolff believes his ideas won’t be listened to because everyone will think he is saying it to preserve Mercedes’ dominance.

“It is very difficult from our position to be credible and to be heard because people think we want to maintain rules as they are in order to maintain our advantage,” he admitted.

“The opposite is actually the case. Leave it alone and performance will converge.”

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Mercedes can’t match Ferrari power mode

Lewis Hamilton admits that Ferrari have a power mode available which is out of Mercedes’ reach.

Any such modes were put to good use at the Canadian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel took pole for the Scuderia and looked set to end Mercedes’ 100% winning record in 2019 come race day.

However, the German made an error which earned him a five-second penalty after rejoining the track unsafely and forcing Hamilton into evasive action, handing the win to his Mercedes rival.

Similarly to Bahrain, the Silver Arrows got away with one against an SF90 which seems to come into its own on a power-hungry track, and the Brit insists it is this power which his team can’t contend with.

“They were so quick on the straights,” he said via F1i.com. “They definitely have another power mode that we currently don’t have.

“So, all of a sudden they turn up the power and he [Vettel] pulls away massively on the straight, even if I have DRS open.”

As a result, Hamilton sees this as an area of weakness for the W10 which needs working on.

“In the race I know all of a sudden they pick up a lot of pace on the straights [as well] but that’s the name of the game,” he explained.

“They’ve clearly done a great job with their power unit. There used to be a point where Mercedes was ahead in that area by a good chunk.

“We’ve got work to do there. They are ahead of us at the moment there.”

Looking beyond the penalty which allowed him to win in Canada, Hamilton was happy with his performance and how he conducted himself.

“I like to think that I conducted myself in the right manner, and the guys worked so hard collectively and we came out with a good result,” added the Brit.

“We’ve got work to do. We’ve seen how quick the Ferraris were [in Canada], they were right there in the last race [Monaco] as well, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

“They’re quicker than us on the straights, they have another level of engine mode that they can go to, particularly in qualifying and also in the race.

“So we’ve definitely got work to do, but at least we’ve got a good fight.”

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Wolff: Ferrari courting heftier penalty with review

Toto Wolff has warned Ferrari that should they opt to review Sebastian Vettel’s Canadian GP penalty, they could in fact incur “more punishment” for the German.

Vettel was handed a five-second penalty during the Canadian Grand Prix for returning to the track in an “unsafe” manner while trying to fend off Lewis Hamilton.

The four-time World Champion was furious with the decision, saying F1 is no longer the sport he fell in love with as a child.

Ferrari declared in the immediate their intention to appeal but dropped that ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

Instead the Scuderia stated that they may yet call for a review.

“We have withdrawn our intention to appeal and are evaluating the right of review,” said a team spokesperson.

They have until the Sunday of the French Grand Prix to review, however, that can only go ahead if they have new evidence that the stewards are not aware of.

Mercedes boss Wolff, whose driver Lewis Hamilton inherited the win when Vettel was penalise, reckons it won’t go in Ferrari’s favour and has warned that Vettel could even have tougher sanctions for his antics.

“You can’t undo the penalty,” he told Osterreich newspaper.

“The worst case would be that the stewards, after looking at the data, find that more punishment is needed.

“I talked to Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto and he thinks what happened isn’t 100 per cent worth a penalty.

“I think he is 100 per cent wrong.

“The fact is: Vettel flew off the track and came back. He looked in the rearview mirror and pushed Lewis towards the wall.

“If Lewis did not put on the brakes, the two would have collided. That’s why the penalty fits.”

“Okay, it’s controversial,” Wolff added. “But in our sport you do not take prisoners.”

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Mercedes ‘cooling change’ aided Hamilton’s pace

Lewis Hamilton’s pace in the second half of the Canadian GP, in which he hunted down Sebastian Vettel, was the result of a “cooling change”, one Mercedes wish they had done earlier.

While Vettel seemed to have the pace in the first half of the Canadian GP, after the pit stops it was all Hamilton.

The Brit pitted two laps after the German with the gap widening to 4.8s.

However, it took only a few laps for Hamilton to bring that right down and sit on Vettel’s rear wing.

We all know what happened next, Vettel ran off the track, was penalised for an unsafe return and Hamilton took the win.

Mercedes, though, reckon the win could have played out on track had they realised a few laps earlier how much the cooling change would help Hamilton.

“We had an issue in the first stint where although he was able to match Sebastian’s lap times, he couldn’t really get close behind because the car was overheating a bit so he had to leave a bit of a gap,” said trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin in Mercedes’ Pure Pitwall video.

“He was having to lift off the throttle to keep it cool.

“When Sebastian came in, we told Lewis to push but actually the tyres were degrading a bit and you can see his last two laps were actually no faster than the ones before that. And that was fundamentally why the ‘overcut’ didn’t work.

“The reason why we kept him out the extra lap was just that if there had been a Safety Car, we would’ve inherited the lead by virtue of the shorter pit stop.

“Now, looking at it again, you can see in the second stint we were a lot quicker and some of this is because we were able to make a cooling change in the pit stop that suddenly meant Lewis could really push the car harder and we were able to push up behind Sebastian.

“If we’d known that we had that pace difference, we would definitely [have] had a go at the undercut.

“We’d have stopped him one lap earlier and it would’ve been close, but maybe it would’ve worked.

“But, even if it didn’t work, Lewis would’ve been on hot tyres as Sebastian joined the track on cold tyres and we could’ve maybe had a go at overtaking on the lap.

“So, of course what we did didn’t work. We would do something differently next time.”

“But that meant we were struggling a bit in traffic. We hadn’t intended to be so far down the grid.”

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Marko hits out at perceived Mercedes bias

Sebastian Vettel’s Canadian GP penalty is just another sign that there is bias towards Mercedes, so says Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.

Vettel was slapped with a five-second time penalty in Montreal for an “unsafe” turn, handing the race win to Lewis Hamilton.

It was the Brit’s fifth of this season and Mercedes’ seventh allowing the Brackley team to race to a massive 100-plus lead after just seven races.

Marko reckons Vettel’s penalty was completely wrong.

He told Auto Bild: “Sebastian did not do anything wrong. He had his hands full keeping the car on the track.

“Hamilton could just have passed on the inside or simply braked. He also has a duty to prevent an accident but he risked a collision to gain an advantage. And then he complained on the radio.

“Sebastian’s penalty is therefore unfair and leaves a bad aftertaste. The rules urgently need changing.”

Pressed as to whether he believed F1’s powers-that-be are biased towards Mercedes, Marko cited this year’s revised Pirelli tyres which play to the strength of Mercedes’ W10.

“Let’s put it this way: it’s noticeable that the rule changes and decisions have always been good for Mercedes lately,” he said.

“For example, Pirelli changed the tyre tread for 2019 so they won’t overheat, but in 2018 only Mercedes had a problem with that.

“Suddenly in 2019, Mercedes is the only one to get the temperatures in the correct working window. Everyone else has not.

“It’s funny. We all had the opportunity to react to it but the cars were all designed for less downforce.

“Only Mercedes chose to build a car with a lot of downforce and traction – in hindsight that was exactly the way to get the most from these new tyres.”

The Austrian even went as far to state that he “cannot” rule out suspicion that Mercedes received Pirelli’s tyre data ahead of their rivals.

“I cannot prove that Mercedes got data earlier than we did, I cannot rule it out,” said Marko, “but it doesn’t build confidence when you look at Liberty.

“We at Red Bull will have to look very closely at the future development of Formula 1 and there will also be discussions with Pirelli.”

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Merc explain Hamilton’s hydraulic drama

Mercedes were “pretty tight” on time in getting Lewis Hamilton’s W10 rebuilt after discovering a hydraulic leak in the wake of qualifying.

With three hours to go before the start of the Canadian Grand Prix news broke that Hamilton’s W10 was in pieces in the Mercedes garage due to a hydraulic leak.

Although the team had been aware of the problem after qualifying, they were not able to do anything until the Sunday due to parc ferme regulations.

As such the team faced a mad dash to find the problem, fix it and then put the car back together.

“We had some issues with Lewis’s car before the race and this actually became apparent after qualifying,” trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says in the latest Pure Pitwall video.

“We dropped the floor and noticed there was some oil on the floor, so somewhere there was a leak. We could also see on the data we were losing some hydraulic pressure.

“The issue is that the cars are then in parc ferme overnight so we are not allowed to touch them or to investigate further. So, that investigation moved to Sunday morning, when we are allowed to access the cars again, and the mechanics can work on them.

“We had to take the power unit out and as a result we traced the leak to the throttle actuator. We then made a request to the FIA to change the throttle actuator and some of the associated hydraulics.

“So, that was quite a big job though, there’s a lot to do within that. And it was pretty tight to get Lewis’s car back together for the start of the race.

“While we are fairly happy we can do the work in that time, the issue when you have an unknown fault or a leak is you don’t know how long it is going to take you to find it, to identify it. We were able to get the car back together.”

The next test, which took place minutes before the cars had to head to the pit lane, was firing up the engine.

It worked and Hamilton left the pits to join the grid. He won the race.

Shovlin added: “Where we were at risk was if we then fired up and we found another problem, if the engine had to come out again, that’s when we would have got short on time and perhaps not even been able to start the race.

“But, it was a great job by all the mechanics involved and happily the car was back together in time and finished the race successfully.”

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Bottas’ resurgence suffering burn out

The person most allowed to feel aggrieved by Sebastian Vettel’s Canadian GP penalty is Valtteri Bottas, after all it handed Lewis Hamilton a momentum-boosting third successive win.

Bottas arrived on the 2019 grid full of porridge, espressos, facial hair and a desire to prove he is no one’s wingman.

He took the victory Down Under, even going against team orders not to take risks and chased after the fastest lap point, because “copy that but I want 26 points.”

Back-to-back P2s, losing out to Hamilton, saw Bottas fall behind his team-mate in the standings but he came back in Baku to take the lead in the standings by one point, that Australian GP fastest lap point.

The Finn was fierce in Azerbaijan demonstrating that he isn’t a wingman, tussling with Hamilton through the opening few corners and winning the battle.

Bottas 2.0 had arrived, and he was willing to fight. Or so it seemed.

Game on heading to Spain; pundits felt this could be the race for Bottas to show that he’s 100% in it, that 2019 is his year.

He took pole position, labelling it one of his best, but when it came down to being wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton (and Sebastian Vettel), he was the one to yield.

Spanish-GP-Barcelona-start-lap-1-2019-PA

Hamilton pulled seven points clear with his third win of the campaign. A fourth followed in Monaco, the gap up to 17, and the pressure was on Bottas to get it right in Canada and claw some of the deficit back.

Bottas 2.0 reverted to Bottas -2.0, the Bottas of 2018.

Unlike in this year’s previous races, Bottas failed to top a single session and when it really mattered in qualifying he made a mistake that left him 0.861s off the pace and down in sixth place.

A day later and Bottas’ lacklustre race weekend, at least by Mercedes’ standards, continued as he struggled to pass first Nico Hulkenberg and then Daniel Ricciardo, losing valuable time.

He was fourth when news broke that Vettel had a five-second time penalty for an unsafe return to the track while trying to fend off Hamilton in the battle for the win. But with Hamilton P2, he took advantage of Vettel’s penalty while Bottas crossed the line in fourth and stayed in fourth.

The gap in the championship went up to 29 points, Hamilton’s successive wins to three, and the number of races since Bottas last won, up to four.

But while an advantage of 29 points can be overturned, a gap of only 23 points – what it would have been without Vettel’s penalty – would be a tad easier.

Or at least it would, if Bottas hadn’t seemingly lost his mojo.

Valtteri-Bottas-PA

It takes a lot to fight Hamilton, both on the track and in the mind games. It is according to Bottas’ predecessor Nico Rosberg exhausting, so much so he quit F1 after finally beating Hamilton to a World title.

Bottas showed signs of that tiredness in Montreal where he had no fight, it was as if he had capitulated to Hamilton before the weekend had even begun given that the Brit was after his seventh Canadian GP win.

It leaves one wondering if this year’s title fight is already all over for Bottas…

It is if Mr 2.0 doesn’t make a speedy return in France.

Michelle Foster

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