Five times the Russian Grand Prix was held in Sochi, five times the winner was Mercedes. Three times Lewis Hamilton triumphed for the silver arrows, once Nico Rosberg and Valtteri Bottas. After the first two trainings 2019, however, there seems to be a chance that this series will tear this year. Because Mercedes was away from the music on Friday.
We just miss Pace. We are currently having problems finding the right solutions,”says team leader Toto Wolff. Mercedes hasn’t been able to win a race since the summer break. In Spa, Monza and Singapore each Ferrari had his nose in front. On Friday in Russia, Red Bull pilot Max Verstappen was now the fastest man in front of Ferraris Charles Leclerc.
Valtteri Bottas (+0646 seconds) and Lewis Hamilton (+0798) did not exceed the positions three and four. I think we haven’t really improved [since the summer break], Wolff ponders and explains: “Of course we haven’t invested terribly much in developing the car. That could be a reason. But it seems that others have won over-proportionally and we have lost.”
At least one chance in the race?
“Ultimately, in my opinion, everything depends on tires. And this is quite tricky,”says Wolff, who has identified qualification as another problem. In Singapore, Hamilton was stuck behind Leclerc in the early stages, but simply could not overtake. This was the case even in the last three races. We have not been able to qualify for pole anymore,”Wolff recalls.
“And in the race we were always behind and stretched in the red gear. But it was just not enough, because we lack speed on the straight,”said the Austrian. Mercedes has been out of pole position for four races. The last one so far brought Hamilton to Hockenheim in July. The three previous Poles and victories each went to Ferrari.” They probably understood better how their car works,”says Wolff.
“If we knew where we took the wrong turn, we could fix it. But right now it is primarily about collecting some data,”he explains. Less surprising for him in the meantime is the fact that Bottas landed in both training sessions on Friday before Hamilton. I think this is just Valtteri’s route. He likes this smooth asphalt. He was always strong here,”he recalls.
“If we can at least summon the potential of the car in the race, then I think he can win,”Wolff shows himself optimistic at least in this respect. Bottas himself sees the same thing. I think the race track wasn’t so bad. I therefore believe that we will have a good chance on Sunday,”said the Finnish. He sees the problem more on Saturday.
Mercedes hopes for rain in qualifying
“If it stays dry, then we have to get even more out of the soft tire on one lap. I think medium and hard worked out pretty well for us. But on Soft we still have to find performance,”Bottas explains, revealing:”Red Bull and Ferrari were a little too fast today. I felt good, there were no big problems with the balance of the car.”
“Actually I hope for rain tomorrow, then we might have a better chance in qualifying,”says the Finnish, who had problems with a little too little grip and is too slippery. But this was “normal” and “no worse than on other routes” at the beginning of a weekend, Bottas says and explains, “I’m not worried about that. The track always improves, and this track in particular.”
“The art lawn as in sector two is getting cleaner and you can push on,”he says.”The art lawn as in sector two is getting cleaner and cleaner and you can push on and on.” Other than that, I felt good and had fun. But of course we still have to find something if we want to fight for the Poles tomorrow,”he knows and explains:”We will look at everything we can do better. I’m sure we can find something else. The tires are the key.”
Hamilton steps on the spot
Team colleague Hamilton reports in the meantime:”It didn’t go so bad, but it didn’t get better while the others made great progress. Against Ferrari we lose between eight tenths and a second on the straight.”He explains:”The Pace was a little better in FT2, but it’s not where we want to be yet. We will work hard tonight.”
Hamilton announces a night shift and for Saturday”some changes to the car”. On Friday it would have been difficult to find the right balance, because the route had changed constantly.” I believe in my boys. I don’t think we’ve got the maximum out of the car yet,”says Hamilton, who doesn’t want to write off the weekend.
“It’s nice that our opponents are doing so well. But I want to fight them, and we’re working on it,”he explains and adds:”Tomorrow will be a hard day. I hope it rains.”That’s how he hits the same spot as his teammate. Hamilton also adds that rain could make the race “more exciting.” Overriding is not so easy because all curves are so fast,”he explains.
“You take so much speed through the curve that you cannot follow. But there are these long straight lines, and we have DRS. In the rain the consequences would be easier because then you can choose different lines,”says Hamilton. Besides, rain could shift the power ratios a little. And that could help Mercedes this weekend.