Mercedes Method 1 boss Toto Wolff has defended Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time champion was out-qualified by team-mate George Russell for the third consecutive race.
Hamilton certified seventh for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, two locations and 0.212 seconds behind Russell, who was 1.353secs adrift of the pole time set by Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
Wolff mentioned Hamilton had been making an attempt out completely different set-ups on his automotive because the crew attempt to unravel their efficiency issues.
“Lewis has been making an attempt some fairly experimental components of the automotive and there was a distinct ground answer on his automotive that did not work,” Wolff mentioned.
Wolff mentioned that though Hamilton has now misplaced out to Russell in Spain, Monaco and Baku, it was “too early to determine a sample”.
Wolff mentioned: “I’m very near it and I see one session one is quicker after which subsequent the opposite is. And since the automotive is on a knife edge, in the event you put a foot incorrect, when it comes to experiments on the automotive – which must be finished to ensure that us to discover ways to carry out and the place to place the automotive – there may be 0.2-0.3secs instantly between them.
“And the final three races these experiments have gone incorrect with Lewis and never with George.”
Russell is five-three forward within the Mercedes’ drivers qualifying head-to-head, however the rating is three-all when solely races during which a good comparability is feasible are taken under consideration, after which Hamilton is definitely barely sooner on common.
Wolff mentioned that in Baku Hamilton’s automotive had a distinct set-up that was exacerbating the issues with bottoming with which Mercedes have been struggling this season.
“The automotive was porpoising extra and bottoming out to a level that it grew to become harmful, and could not extract the efficiency,” he mentioned.
Bottoming has been the principle downside afflicting Mercedes this season.
The crew felt they may have mounted it with a brand new ground design launched two races in the past on the Spanish Grand Prix.
However whereas that seems to have solved the porpoising – an aerodynamic downside attributable to the airflow beneath the automotive being disrupted – the automotive remains to be crashing into the observe an excessive amount of.
Russell mentioned: “The bottoming has been excessive. We’ve got lastly acquired on high of the porpoising situation and we are actually so near the bottom to get the utmost aerodynamic advantages and it is simply brutal on the market, being shaken to items.
“You possibly can barely see the place to brake on the finish of the straight as a result of it’s bouncing round a lot.
“I do not suppose we’re the one automotive. I believe perhaps half the grid are in the identical boat and frustratingly Ferrari are in the identical boat however they one way or the other appear to make it work. Everyone seems to be working super-hard to attempt to resolve these points.”
Hamilton mentioned he was struggling particularly although the flat-out kinks initially of Baku’s lengthy pit ‘straight’.
“For me it was simply holding the factor out of the wall on the quick high-speed curves,” he mentioned. “We’ve got modified so many various issues we simply can not seem to (repair it). In Barcelona we did not have any, however all over the place else we have had it.”
Russell’s security considerations
Russell believes the bottoming situation is a security concern for your complete sport, and he raised the subject with governing physique the FIA within the drivers’ briefing on Friday.
The issue has emerged this 12 months following the introduction of recent guidelines the place automobiles have a distinct aerodynamic philosophy in comparison with final 12 months.
They use a phenomenon referred to as ‘floor impact’, producing downforce by channelling the air beneath the automobiles, and this requires the automobiles to be run decrease than earlier than for optimum efficiency.
Russell mentioned: It is only a matter of time earlier than we see a serious incident. Loads of us can barely preserve the automobiles in a straight line over these bumps.
“We’re going across the final two corners at 300km/h, bottoming out, you possibly can see how shut the automobiles are working to the bottom. It is pointless with the expertise we’ve within the present atmosphere working an F1 automotive at over 200mph millimetres from the bottom and it’s a recipe for catastrophe.
“I do not actually know what the longer term holds however I do not suppose we will maintain this for 3 years or nonetheless lengthy these laws are in drive for.”
The FIA is open to discussing the thought however to this point there isn’t a normal consensus that modifications must be made.
Russell was within the minority within the drivers’ briefing, insiders have mentioned, though Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz has additionally expressed considerations concerning the situation.
Hamilton added: “It may be security factor, for positive. At present it’s bottoming by way of corners at 180mph – huge bottoming – and there is not actually lots we will do to cease it. We won’t have this for 4 years of this automotive. They do must work on it. All of the drivers spoke about it.”
Hamilton mentioned he wakened on Saturday morning in ache because of the bottoming, however he added that he had mentioned the matter together with his former team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who’s now at Alfa Romeo, and the Finn had mentioned his automotive doesn’t have the problem.
And there’s no widespread settlement that the automobiles must be modified, particularly so early in a brand new regulation set.
Within the official information convention on Saturday, Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto and his reverse quantity at Haas Gunther Steiner each mentioned it was too early to attract conclusions.
Wolff mentioned: “We have seen automobiles that do not have the problem. After which others who’ve it have it worse, clearly.
“I can speak for our two drivers: they’re having points and it goes to some extent that even a physio cannot repair it generally. So, we have to see how that develops. And perceive additionally why it is a lot more durable in some automobiles than in others.”
There isn’t a likelihood of 80% of the groups agreeing to make modifications, as could be required beneath the laws. The FIA may implement modifications on security grounds, however that doesn’t seem like on the horizon.
What concerning the race?
Leclerc’s pole place on Saturday was one other excellent efficiency from the qualifying king of 2022, as he pulled all of it collectively on his ultimate lap to take pole by newly 0.3 seconds.
However the races haven’t been going so properly for the Ferrari man.
He has seen a 55-point swing towards him within the championship within the final 4 races, all of which Crimson Bull have gained, and whereas Leclerc has six poles in eight races, he has not transformed one right into a victory because the third race of the season in Australia.
Verstappen was winner on advantage in Imola and Miami, however in Spain and Monaco Ferrari misplaced what ought to have been wins, with an engine failure for Leclerc in Barcelona and a method foul-up in Monaco.
Leclerc was overtaken by Verstappen because the world champion gained in Saudi Arabia, Imola and Miami. However he believes Ferrari’s race tempo and tyre administration has been improved by the aerodynamic improve they launched in Spain.
“I am actually excited for tomorrow,” he mentioned. “I believe we’ll have fairly a little bit of solutions tomorrow as a result of tyre administration is a giant factor right here.
“In Barcelona and Monaco we had been managing it properly, though in Monaco it was tough to see something. However general, our race tempo has finished a step up since we introduced the improve. So tomorrow shall be very attention-grabbing whether or not it will likely be the case right here too.
“I simply need to end the job. The previous two weekends I’ve already mentioned that on the Saturday and it did not occur on the Sunday. So we have to make it… I imply, we needn’t make it work however it will likely be very good if we’ll make it work tomorrow.
“Let’s examine the way it goes within the first few laps, after which I’ll attempt to preserve the lead.”