Wolff 'surprised' by Mercedes' qualie advantage over Ferrari

Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes AMG F1 W10.
© XPB 

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff admitted that he had been somewhat concerned by the early Ferrari pace in Saturday's qualifying session at Silverstone, and that he had been surprised by the way things turned around.

Having set the pace in final practice, the two Ferraris started qualifying on the slower medium compound in Q1. Even so, Charles Leclerc was still able to go second quickest just 0.02s slower than Lewis Hamilton on the soft tyres.

And in the second round, Leclerc changed to the soft compound and was quickest of all, beating Valtteri Bottas by 0.126s.

It left Wolff worrying that the Silver Arrows might not have the pace to fend off the Ferrari challenge in Q3. However, in the end Mercedes was able to narrowly secure another front row lock-out for Sunday's British Grand Prix.

"It's good, it came as a little bit of a surprise because we were on the back foot throughout the qualifying session and expected Ferrari to be strong," Wolff told Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz afterwards.

"But finally in Q3 they went backwards and we went forwards," he added. "The grip ramped up, the whole car heated up, and I think that made the whole thing come towards us."

Mercedes struggled last time out in the scorching conditions of Spielberg, but this time around - in the significantly cooler British summer - that's not been an issue concerning Wolff.

"Heating up cars, if it's heating up in the right way, then it's good!" he laughed.

The team's technical director James Allison elaborated on what the team thought had happened on Saturday afternoon which saw heavily overcast and humid conditions, the air temperature only really starting to rise toward the end of qualifying.

"Much like yesterday, it was a tough old day and we were trying to find lap time that has been a little bit elusive throughout," Allison said.

"Again like yesterday, our opposition looked very threatening on single-lap pace and Ferrari were perhaps the favourites heading into qualifying.

James Allison (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 Technical Director with Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director.

"It hasn't been easy to get the best from the tyres on a track which both loads them heavily through the fast corners, then cools them quite rapidly in the cool air conditions," he explained. "That has made life very difficult this weekend.

"But in the end, in Q3 when it properly counted, both drivers managed to find the pace and Valtteri took a well-earned pole."

Wolff said that he hadn't been particularly surprised to see Bottas narrowly snatch pole from Hamilton by six thousandths of a second.

"On the first run, Valtteri had a fantastic lap and Lewis made a small mistake," he commented. "On the second run, Valtteri couldn't improve but Lewis did an almost identical lap to Valtteri's first one.

"These were the tiny things that made a difference in the end."

Now attention turns to Sunday's race, which will see the two Mercedes cars on slower but longer-lasting medium tyres for the beginning of the race, while Ferrari has opted to start on the soft compound.

"Medium tyres will be a few metres less competitive from the start line," Wolff admitted. "Hopefully after that, they will prove more robust and we can deliver some of the race pace we saw on Friday.

"We are hoping for an exciting race tomorrow!"

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