After two difficult practice sessions, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admits expecting the qualifying session to be “one of the most difficult I have ever seen for us.”
Both Mercedes drivers failed to enter the top 10 of the timesheet in yesterday’s second free practice session. After a difficult Friday, both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were alarmed by their poor pace and had to admit that they had not expected to finish the sessions so far away from the frontrunners.
The Finnish driver mentioned a “more challenging day than we anticipated” as he felt something was “fundamentally wrong” in the team’s approach.
After gathering as much data as possible and analyzing what they could, Wolff had to draw early and difficult conclusions – there is probably nothing Mercedes can do about their pace and the problems are not coming from a wrong approach in the car’s setup but rather from a lack of performance in slow corners like it was demonstrated in Monaco.
“We have a strong race car, but we’re struggling to really nail it for a single lap,” Wolff said.
“[For] most of the layout, there is no fast corners. It’s all stop and go, it’s all 90-degree corners or more tricky Monaco-style. So it was always clear that it would be difficult for us.”
“Today was a day of data collection and analysis, but definitely what we have seen in Monaco is a bit of a prolongation into Baku, that there are certain parts of the track where we simply don’t perform.”
After pointing out their slow-corner performance deficiency, the Austrian team principal also said he is expecting a cruel qualifying session, foreseeing one of the most difficult in the team’s history.
“Racing is done on Sunday, and I think qualifying can be a very, very difficult session for us, probably one of the most difficult I have ever seen for us.”
“They were very good in those twisty parts in Monaco, so they are very good here too, and Ferrari also,” Wolff added, talking about Red Bull’s current superior pace.
“And then on the straights, if you have a wing that gives you this additional speed, you have the optimum combination against us.”