Toto Wolff has revealed Mercedes had to make adjustments to their W12 floors to avoid a “bloodbath” at the United States GP.
At a time when Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has been speaking of a special “device” that Mercedes have been using to “lower” the rear of their car to increase their straight-line speed, Wolff has revealed that the team found their W12s were sitting a bit too close to the ground at the Circuit of the Americas.
As such, and with permission from the FIA, the team made changes to the parts ahead of Saturday’s qualifying.
That session resulted in a pole position for Max Verstappen with Lewis Hamilton, the favourite to take pole, 0.2s down on his title rival.
Wolff told Motorsport Netherlands: “The bottom of our car had quite a lot of contact with the ground. This will break the car.
“We have made a number of adjustments so that the car does not suffer major damage and we can finish the race.”
Conceding that those adjustments cost them speed in qualifying, he added: “But it’s probably necessary to finish at all.”
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The United States Grand Prix weekend began with a 1-2 for Mercedes in first practice before Sergio Perez topped the second and third sessions, and then Verstappen qualifying.
“We fell behind after Friday,” Wolff admitted. “We don’t know yet what the cause is.
“I can’t explain why we can’t live up to our expectations here yet.”
“In terms of performance, the Red Bulls now seem very strong and on paper their cars are ahead. But it’s about Sunday.
“Anything can happen there. It can go in a completely different direction.
“Although I often say that the result of qualifying is often the result of the race, thank goodness that is not the case.
“We can certainly strike back, hopefully with Valtteri coming back to the front as well.”
Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by six points in the title race, will start the United States GP from second on the grid, sandwiched between the Red Bulls, while his team-mate Valtteri Bottas is P9.
The Finn was forced to take a sixth ICE for this season at COTA, Mercedes announcing the news on Friday.