Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has praised his team’s engineers for finding the root cause of the problem Mercedes endured during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The team was well off the pace which left Ferrari to pick up their second win of the year as Sebastian Vettel led home Daniel Ricciardo with Kimi Raikkonen finishing third.
This weekend Mercedes has rectified the issues that plagued their race last year as Nico Rosberg blitzed the field to claim pole position by over half a second to next best finisher Ricciardo.
“First of all, you hear often sentences from the drivers or management, saying they are really thankful of the job the team did,” Wolff said.
“I must say, and we have just had the debrief, I am so proud of the job the engineers have done around really finding out about the root causes of last year’s performance – and the severity of our lack of performance last year opened up new ways of thinking.
“I remember last year after the race, when we had the situation of crisis, we discussed it and we wanted to find out [the cause] and there was a worry it would maybe drag on into Suzuka and the following races.
“We kept our heads down and a small designated group looked at the data and then parked the topic and concentrated on Suzuka, and this is now the proof today that we have understood where we had the weakness of the car and I think we had quite some learning for the other tracks throughout the 2016 season that we benefitted from Singapore last year. So sometimes those difficult moments give you the possibility of really driving from there on.”
While the team has resolved the problems they faced last year, Lewis Hamilton has struggled throughout the weekend to find the right balance with his car and has also struggled with braking.
The championship leader out-braked himself on two occasions in the final practice session, both times at Turn 10, and only managed to qualify in third position, seven-tenths adrift his team mate.
“Lewis’ car was not where it should have been after FP1,” Wolff continued.
“As you know it is not always easy to find the right compromise with the set-up of the car and getting the tyre in the right window and giving the driver a comfortable feeling and here we have failed. He didn’t have a car today that he was able to extract all of the performance from. The set-up was not right. He didn’t have the tool.”
Hamilton was also perplexed as to why he wasn’t able to find the right setup before qualifying, as the Briton is now at a further disadvantage given he failed to complete a full race simulation during yesterday’s second practice session.
“Honestly I can’t really take you through it [setup problems] because I don’t understand it all at the moment,” Hamilton said after qualifying.
“They’re trying to understand everything. There are several different things that could be the issue, but I don’t know just yet. I’ll just sit in there with my engineers trying to figure it out.
“I didn’t do the long run yesterday so I don’t know. I might luck in and it might be just right for tomorrow, but it doesn’t sound particularly likely that that is the case.
“It might be the case that it is just not great and I should still be able to hold position at least, so I will find out tomorrow. But for sure the time last yesterday is proving to be more valuable than I thought.”
Starting third on the grid behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo poses another challenge for Hamilton, as passing around the Marina Bay street circuit is no easy task, especially since it’s a venue Red Bull generally excel at.
“Getting past Daniel could be a pit stop or a Safety Car, generally that’s the only way to get past. I don’t know which one is going to work for me.
“Obviously I will try and get him at the start, but if I don’t then I will just try and stay close behind but their tyres should be able to go a long way and they’ve got more downforce as well so they are in a very strong position.”
Image via Mercedes AMG F1 Petronas