Mercedes boss Toto Wolff fears that Lewis Hamilton will struggle to make his way through the midfield at the Turkish Grand Prix.
Hamilton has set the pace throughout the dry running at Istanbul Park, maintaining that form to the end of Q3.
But while this landed him the P1 time, it did not secure pole due to a 10-place grid penalty, incurred for taking a new internal combustion engine for the weekend.
Hamilton instead will start P11 then, while team-mate Valtteri Bottas inherits pole, but with the pace he has been displaying, surely the midfield pack will be easy work for Hamilton?
Well, Wolff does not believe that will be the case, instead he is concerned for Hamilton’s chances of overtaking and suggested that strategy will be the defining element.
Another super Saturday from @LewisHamilton as he finishes quickest in qualifying 🚀
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 9, 2021
“You need to look at the positives that the car is very quick and Valtteri can start from pole,” Wolff reflected in conversation with Sky F1.
“On the negative side, it’s a weekend where we could have had a front-row lockout and we haven’t.
“And it’s not going to be easy with all the cars running on the medium in front of him apart from [Yuki] Tsunoda, progress will be a tough one.
“Yesterday in the long run we were at a certain stage behind a Haas and also Williams, it was very difficult to even come close.
“So I guess that strategy is more going to be the one that is going to help tomorrow.”
Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen are the only drivers still in title contention, so it would make sense for Bottas to play the team game and help Hamilton if the right scenario arises.
But Wolff also spoke of the Turkish Grand Prix being Bottas’ best opportunity so far for a first victory in 2021, while there may not even be the need for him to sacrifice his race to neutralise Red Bull.
In the dry Verstappen has struggled to match the pace of Mercedes, while the long-runs from practice suggested further growth in that deficit for the race.
“I mean we have to look after ourselves, Valtteri wants to win the race and this is the best opportunity,” Wolff suggested.
“And it’s helping Lewis. The Red Bulls haven’t been so competitive this week and on the long runs it was worse than on a single lap.”
Step one complete for Lewis Hamilton in Turkey
With a penalty coming, Lewis Hamilton knew he needed to qualify fastest in Turkey - and he did so.