Mercedes says W09 "not a diva" despite lack of pace

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team still has issues with overheating tyres that have troubled previous cars, but he insists that unlike its immediate predecessor the W09 is not a "diva".

Mercedes says W09 "not a diva" despite lack of pace
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ passes Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing RB14
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+ in parc ferme
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1 W09 EQ Power+
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport

Mercedes was outpaced by Ferrari in qualifying in Bahrain, with Valtteri Bottas taking third and Lewis Hamilton fourth, before his five-place grid penalty was applied.

Wolff says that the Bahrain track, now acknowledged by Pirelli as the roughest of the season, has not played to the strengths of Mercedes.

"I always said right from the beginning that this was going to be a season where it was going to be much tougher, particularly against Ferrari and Red Bull," he said.

"I was genuine about it and I meant it, and you could see that on a track like Bahrain with a very abrasive surface and lots of heat, we struggle."

Asked if the car was a diva – in other words as difficult to optimise as the 2017 model - he said: "No, it's different.

"She's not a diva. I think the drivers feel that the car is very much together. But we just lacked the pace today here."

How they line up for the Bahrain GP...

However, he agreed that the W09 seems to share some traits with previous Brackley cars.

"In the last years we always seemed to struggle on particular circuits. Bahrain was one where we were successful in terms of results in the past, but also sometimes it was not trivial to find the right set-up.

"And it's interesting that the regulations change, the car's completely different, the tyres change, but it's a little bit within the DNA of each car to have strengths and weaknesses, and it seems that these strengths and weaknesses stay, even though everything else changes."

Wolff say the team remains open-minded about strategy for Sunday's race, despite Hamilton having the obvious opportunity to run a one-stop with softs and then mediums, having used the latter in Q2 to determine the tyre he starts with.

"Tomorrow there's two choices, there's a one-stop or there's a two-stop. I think as far as we can judge from the data from the long running, it's not clear cut.

"I think most teams are probably going to see how the race starts and how it pans out on the supersoft, and obviously we have an advantage on the soft that we can eventually go a little bit longer. But it's not clear cut what it is."

He also played down the prospects of cooler temperatures later in the race helping Mercedes with its tyre issues.

"The race is the race and everything can change as we know, and this makes the sport exciting. On pure pace tomorrow I would say the two Ferraris are clearly the favourites.

"Daniel is an extremely strong racer, and I would see him in the mix there, and I think it will be interesting to see how Valtteri is capable to get off the line and drive hard, and then Lewis is coming back.

"But on pure pace I would see the two Ferraris as the fastest cars on the grid here in Bahrain."

He also conceded that keeping car temperatures under control will be a big challenge.

"You always try and optimise how much you close up the car in order to have the best aerodynamics. In traffic every team will look at how to manage car temperatures.

"Here in Bahrain I would expect it to be a topic, because also you want to maximise your qualifying result."

 

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