Toto Wolff says the growing lobbying by Mercedes’ rivals against its special qualifying mode encouraged his team to develop its engine in anticipation of the FIA’s ban on ‘party modes’.
F1’s governing body recently issued a Technical Directive (TD) that forces teams to use a single engine setting for qualifying and for the race, a decision which the FIA justified by its desire to better monitor engine usage and to tighten the field.
But the rule also clearly targets Mercedes’ supremacy.
However, there was no holding back Mercedes in qualifying at Monza where Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas locked out the front row of the Italian Grand Prix grid by a comfortable margin.
After the Black Arrows’ impressive performance, Wolff revealed that Mercedes’ HPP engine department in Brixworth had thoroughly prepared for the FIA’s engine mode ban well before the release of its TD.
“The way we operate is about extracting performance, and being as adaptable as an organisation, almost the Darwinistic principle, to confront every possible situation that comes up,” Wolff explained.
“Once it was clear that the lobby against our qualy mode has grown, much before the TD came out of the regulations, we shifted our development work towards that situation.
“Today, we’ve seen for the first time how the level of performance has changed between the teams, and there are some interesting outcomes.
“I think maybe the ones that pushed the hardest didn’t show great performance today.
“The biggest advantage we have focused on is to gain race time, and that happens tomorrow. But you don’t want to praise the day before the evening.
“We are pushing the boundaries, and therefore we’ve had a really good Saturday, and I’m very pleased for the team. Now we need to do well on Sunday.”
Hamilton says engine mode ban ‘a compliment’ to Mercedes
By reining in the power in qualifying, engines can be run harder – albeit in the same mode – on race day. Therefore, Mercedes saw an obvious opportunity for gain according to Wolff.
“We knew that this was coming, and once we knew that this was coming, we said: ‘OK, let’s use it as an opportunity’,” Wolff said.
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“I think we have a great organisation, and the mentality in Brixworth was great. They said bring it on, let’s come up with a strong mode for qualifying that we can run all race.
“Overall, we have lost very little qualifying performance, but gained a lot of performance in the race. We can run the engine much harder in the race.
“We’re only able to achieve that with a lot of research and a lot of bench running. So far, so good. Let’s see how it pans out over the next sessions.”
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