Lewis Hamilton and George Russell made great strides to qualify P5 and P6 in Australia but the Mercedes W13 is not cured, Toto Wolff has warned.
It appeared Mercedes were facing a long and difficult race weekend at Albert Park following Friday practice, with neither driver able to finish the day inside the top 10.
Thankfully for Mercedes though, qualifying was a far better showing with Hamilton securing P5 on the grid while Russell will line up P6.
Team principal Toto Wolff is, of course, very happy both drivers were able to find a few tenths, taking them comfortably into the top 10.
But despite that improvement, Wolff cannot pretend all the “gremlins” in the W13 are gone, so their road to recovery is an ongoing challenge.
P5 and P6 on the grid Down Under! 😁 Thanks for all the support so far this weekend, Team. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/51qBGh0a6T
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) April 9, 2022
On the subject of whether set-up changes to the W13 can directly lead to that improvement, Wolff, quoted by GPFans, said: “I think set-up directions are very important and we have seen the drivers were much happier with the car today than yesterday.
“Night and day were the words Lewis chose.
“We are talking a couple of tenths, maybe a bit more. The long runs will be interesting but there is a gremlin in our car, or a few gremlins, that we haven’t found yet.
“That is something we need to continue to analyse and look at the data. As I have said before it is physics, not mystics.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris was able to muscle his way into P4 on the grid ahead of both Mercedes, a marked improvement for that team, but it was looking highly likely Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso would have also qualified in front of Mercedes without their problems.
Alonso crashed at Turn 11 while on a stellar Q3 lap, the result of a hydraulic failure, while the red flag which came as a result of that incident wrecked Sainz’s lap.
Sainz then had a problem with the car’s starter, which meant he did not have enough time left to reach the required tyre temperature and improve upon P9.
Nonetheless, Wolff is happy with Mercedes’ showing, albeit acknowledging the fortune for them of Alonso’s and Sainz’s misfortunes.
“I am satisfied with the result today,” Wolff confirmed.
“Obviously if you correct for Sainz and Alonso it is less good, but it is still solid in the top 10 which was not a given with the closeness of the front end of the midfield.”
Mercedes did not bring any upgrades to the Australian Grand Prix as the team are still learning about the W13, so nothing has been done this weekend that boosted the aerodynamic performance of the car or lessened the severity of its bouncing problem.
“I think we are just learning the car, learning the tyres,” Wolff explained.
“Nothing this weekend has unlocked the aerodynamic potential or reduced the bouncing. We are still at the same place and that is why it doesn’t make any sense to bring updates.
“You confuse yourself even more. Maybe it is even the fact the more downforce you bring the worse the bouncing gets, so we are still learning.”
But despite Mercedes failing to make any inroads on solving their issues, Hamilton believes a podium finish is possible on Sunday, especially as Sainz starts out of position.
“Is one of the Ferraris not up in the top?” he asked, to which the reporter replied: “Carlos is ninth, he lost his lap to the red flag.”
“Then that means we’ve got a good fight up front,” Hamilton continued. “Then a potential podium is possible.”
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