James Vowles, Mercedes’ Strategy Director explained the initial struggles the team faced during qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps at the Belgian Grand Prix, with both drivers nearly being eliminated in Q2.
While Hamilton eventually lined up P3 for the race, Vowles admitted that the qualifying performance was not ideal and that the conditions did not help the drivers while setting qualifying laps.
“[At the] beginning of Q2, they were trafficked on their lap, then on the second lap the tires weren’t quite at their best and we stopped and fitted new ones in the box, and when we did, you saw Lewis moved up to the top of the timesheets, so we had a car that could be competitive in those conditions, but everything had to be right for the drivers,” Vowles explained.
“With the W12, we weren’t quite on the pace of others. In Q2, I think it is fair to say we had new sets of tires as did other cars and [Lando] Norris, and his lap was faster, but they were also running a downforce level more suited to it.
“We went for a setup that was a little bit more balanced for conditions that could be drier than they were, and especially the setup that I think that had Sunday been [Intermediate] conditions, or varying between Inters to going towards dry, we would have been very strong, but that’s not what happened.
Vowles also explained that Williams chose the right strategy in qualifying, and it paid off since George Russell qualified in P2.
“George’s program was one where they knew they couldn’t push immediately after they went out on the wets, they had to do a slow preparation lap and actually, overall, I think in those conditions that might have been the right program.
“We definitely didn’t do the right program during qualifying, not just during Q3, but I don’t think we did the optimum in Q1 or in Q2 either,” Vowles concluded.