Wolff denies Hamilton’s P1 is solely down to the engine

Date published: November 13 2021 - Michelle Foster

Lewis Hamilton walks towards Max Verstappen. Brazil November 2021

Toto Wolff says Mercedes’ pace in Friday’s qualifying was down to more than just a fresh ICE in Lewis Hamilton’s car.

Hamilton set the pace on Friday afternoon, the reigning World Champion clocking a 1:07.934 to beat Max Verstappen by 0.438s.

That gave him first place on the grid for the start of Saturday’s sprint qualifying, although that came under threat after Mercedes was called before the stewards after it was found that the Brit’s DRS opened more than the allotted 85mm.

“The requirement for the maximum of 85mm, when the DRS system is deployed and tested in accordance with TD/011-19, were not fulfilled,” read technical delegate Jo Bauer note to the stewards.

The hearing was adjourned until Saturday morning and he was ultimately disqualified from qualifying, meaning he’d start the sprint from the back of the field.

To make matters worse, he already has a confirmed five-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race as Mercedes fitted his W12 with a new ICE, his fifth of the season.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckons it is that new ICE that accounts for his advantage over Hamilton.

“That fresh engine obviously pumping out some horsepower for them, so I think second was the best that we could hope for,” he told Sky F1.

“And so to be up there on the front row, we are okay with that.”

Wolff, though, says it was more than just the engine that handed Hamilton P1.

“No, what wasn’t just the engine,” he told Speedweek.com. “I think we were faster today in all respects.”

Speaking prior to the investigation into Hamilton’s DRS, with only the Brit’s five-place grid penalty in the mix, Wolff admitted it may not be easy for his driver to bounce back come Sunday.

While he is expecting a strong showing from the championship protagonist in Saturday’s sprint race, Sunday’s grand prix could be a different story.

“Our top speed is good,” Wolff added, “but whether it will be good enough to get past the other cars remains to be seen.

“From today’s perspective, I would say – we have a great starting position for the sprint, but the grand prix will probably be difficult to win.”

Hamilton arrived at the Interlagos circuit for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix trailing Verstappen by 19 points in the race for this year’s World title.