Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff set off for Formula One’s European summer break determined to see his outfit solve the start-line problems that threaten to undermine their domination of the Formula One world championship.
After seeing championship leader Briton Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate German Nico Rosberg beaten off the grid for the second race in succession in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the Austrian boss knows they are under pressure.
“We got jumped by two Williams’ last time and jumped by the two Ferraris this time,” he said, referring to the British Grand Prix and Sunday’s contest at the Hungaroring won by four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel for Ferrari.
“This is what triggered the whole mess for our race and then the lap one incident came We need to get on top of the situation. It is not acceptable and it needs to be analysed why it happened. It is many various reasons, it is not one particular one. If you look at it, not good.”
Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen surged past both Hamilton and Rosberg at the start of Sunday’s 69-laps race, the German to claim an emotional triumph he dedicated to colleague Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who died on July 17.
Raikkonen followed him in second place for much of the race before power unit problems forced him into retirement, gifting second and third places to the revived Red Bull duo of Russian Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo after both Rosberg and Hamilton had suffered more lost positions following collisions with the Australian driver.
Wolff conceded he is concerned at the team’s issues with starts, especially because the rules are due to change at the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, on August 23, reducing the level of technical assistance they can receive.
“I am very concerned about this,” said Wolff. “It is various issues. And it is very difficult to get the calibration right. We had two very good practice starts off the line and then, when it mattered, on the actual race start, we had too much wheel spin.
“Then, when that happens, you get overtaken in a way you cannot recover from ”
Hamilton and Mercedes had dominated every practice session on Friday and Saturday and he qualified in pole position with such ease that he appeared to be a certain winner – if he made a good start.
But in what is becoming a worryingly bad habit, he was passed at the start and left with a recovery mission that, on Sunday, turned into a series of mishaps, errors, accidents and penalties.
Hamilton apologised for his driving, saying it was “a bad day at the office” and entirely his fault, while Rosberg threw away a podium finish when he suffered a puncture in a collision with Ricciardo in the closing laps, finishing eighth.
Vettel’s win lifted him to within 21 points of second-placed Rosberg in the drivers’ championship on 160 points, rekindling Ferrari’s spirits with a second victory of the year.
He is the only man to have broken Mercedes stranglehold which was so weakened on Sunday that they did not have a driver on the podium for the first time this year. – Agence France-Presse