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Mercedes fears qualifying rout

NEWS STORY
05/06/2021

As Andrew Shovlin admits to the team's "worst Friday by some margin", Mercedes fears woeful single-lap pace will cost it dearly in qualifying.

If there is one crumb of comfort for Mercedes heading into today's qualifying session, it is that in 2017 Daniel Ricciardo won the race despite starting from tenth on the grid.

"Today was our worst Friday by some margin," was how trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin described the opening day of the Azerbaijan weekend.

"Our biggest issue seemed to be the single lap," he admitted, "we're a long way from our normal positions so clearly we need to find something very significant there.

"The long run picture was not as bad," he added, "a fair bit behind Red Bull but still in the mix. We're planning a comprehensive programme of analysis and simulator work to try and understand some of these issues but we clearly have an awful lot to find."

Indeed, the Mercedes duo appeared to need as many as three laps before the W12 could get up to speed and even then was off the pace of its main rival. At close of play, Hamilton was 11th, 1.041s off Sergio Perez' pace, while teammate Valtteri Bottas was 16, 2.069s down.

"I think qualifying can be a very, very difficult session for us," admitted Toto Wolff, "probably one of the most difficult I've ever seen for us.

"It reminds me of Singapore '15," he added, "but we'll take it on the chin. Today was a day of data collection analysis, but definitely, what we have seen in Monaco is a bit of a prolongation into Baku that there are certain parts of the track that we just don't perform. It's all stop and go, it's all 90-degree corners or tricky Monaco-style. So it was always clear that that would be difficult for us.

"I believe we have a good race car," he insisted, "so there's ground to recover on Sunday and learn. It is what it is, we are trying to go as fast as possible with the kit that is available."

"It feels clean," said Hamilton, "I got all the laps that we needed, there were not really any mistakes... I had one lock-up I think in FP1. But in general I feel like I'm driving well and the car felt better in FP1, in this one [FP2] there was just no more time in it.

"We're definitely quite a chunk down," he admitted. "I think everyone will be scratching their heads trying to figure out and looking into the data to try and figure out how we can improve.

"The long run was better, but yeah... I was pushing, I was on the limit, but the car is limited, there are areas that I should just be quicker but there's no more grip. So we'll work it out.

"It's not easy to be out of the top ten in a place when we've had pace in other places. But yeah, I don't really know why we are where we are."

"Clearly we were lacking pace," added Bottas. "It feels like it's just overall grip, you know. The balance is not that far off. OK, the car is maybe a bit unpredictable, but it just feels like lacking grip and sliding around. I think it's going to be a long night tonight."

Asked if the issue was purely single-lap pace, the Finn replied: "Slightly better maybe on the long run, but still, we're lacking pace. That's for sure. So I think there's something fundamentally wrong and we need to figure out what."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.

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1. Posted by kenji, 05/06/2021 7:35

""Oh joy,oh joy oh rapture. how nice to see Mercedes feeling some heat after such a long time. Are they handling it well? No, apparently not, as the big bad Wolff cried off facing the cameras until he could touch up the mascara...only joking really... but still there is an increased level of angst amongst some of the 'untouchables'. I do sincerely hope that Ferrari and McLaren are right up there to increase the pressure. For once we may just get a real race..if so, how refreshing would that be?"

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