Gearbox issue ‘came out of nowhere’ for Mercedes

Tom Rawcliffe
Toto Wolff Mercedes PA

Toto Wolff

Toto Wolff has admitted his Mercedes team are struggling to understand what caused the issue which limited them to six laps in the morning testing session.

Valtteri Bottas was first out of the pits for Mercedes at the Bahrain International Circuit, with Lewis Hamilton then scheduled to take over in the afternoon, but Bottas would have expected more time on track than he completed.

The Finn was stopped almost immediately after he left the pits, with a problem identified when shifting gears, so the W12 returned to the garage for a change of gearbox.

Bottas did manage to get back on track, but not for long at all as he accumulated just six timed laps before he handed the car over to Hamilton.

Speaking after the morning session, Mercedes boss Wolff said: “We had a gearbox issue that came out of nowhere, that we haven’t yet been ready to identify, understand.

“If we are able to have a smoother ride from here onwards, then I think we can recover.

“If we have more stumbling blocks then obviously with three days [of testing] there is not a lot you can do.”

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Hamilton had better luck than his team-mate in the afternoon, but the car still spent some of time in the garage – for different reasons – so it was not the ideal start for the constructor looking for their eighth successive Championship victory.

Wolff is not overly concerned by the lack of track action, though, as he thinks things will be very different once the first race weekend comes around at the same venue at the end of the month.

He said: “We will see some kind of vague picture after the three days. I think Bahrain is representative but these days are very gusty, the wind conditions change from one day to the other.

“And of course we don’t know the fuel loads, and there’s quite a difference in performance, [if a car is] just missing 10kg.

“So a vague picture, but on the first race weekend, in qualifying, we’re going to know. Once the flag drops, bullshit stops.”

Something we can take from their Friday testing was the reveal of the W12’s new floor, which had been kept well hidden until the morning.

“I think it looks good, optimising the floor around the lack of aerodynamic performance that we have with the new regulations, and let’s see [whether] it can be translated into real performance,” added Wolff.

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