Toto Wolff reveals all on unexpected Mercedes issue in Bahrain Grand Prix

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver George Russell in Bahrain.

Both Mercedes drivers suffered issues with their power unit during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff has admitted there was an “unexpected” engine cooling issue for Mercedes and one of their customer teams during the Bahrain Grand Prix.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were unable to get the maximum from their Mercedes cars in Bahrain on Saturday, with Wolff predicting they lost around half a second per lap as a result of the issue.

Toto Wolff predicts hefty time loss as a result of ‘unexpected’ Mercedes power unit cooling issue

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

Russell and Hamilton brought their cars home in fifth and seventh place respectively and, while the team were encouraged by the pace they showed, Wolff admitted the Red Bull of Max Verstappen was in a “different galaxy” on his way to victory on Saturday.

But Russell saw himself overtaken by both Ferrari drivers as he had to do more ‘lift and coast’ into corners to cool his Mercedes power unit, while Hamilton endured a battery charging problem that was later fixed.

Wolff revealed that the cooling problem also affected Williams, Mercedes’ customer team, but it cost them significantly in race trim.

“I think for us testing was pretty good and also the performances on Thursday and Friday were encouraging; the car was stable, was good, the drivers liked it,” Wolff elaborated to media including PlanetF1.com after the race.

“Actually, when we started the race on the soft tyre, everything [went] pretty much to plan and then, unfortunately, we had to start cooling the engine more than we expected – and we can’t understand yet where that came from.

“We had one of our customer teams, Williams, who had the same issue, the other two not, and that was unexpected.

“And from then on, if you switch three, four tenths of power unit performance off and then you have to lift and coast on top of that, I think, at times, probably altogether, [we had] almost certainly five or six tenths of a second that we couldn’t take from what the car had in it and therefore, it just wasn’t great fun.”

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With only a week until the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to find a fix for the problem, the Mercedes team principal and CEO was confident that the team would be able to do so, given there’s a trade-off the teams find between keeping the engine cool and optimising performance.

“I’m sure we can get on top of the cooling,” Wolff stated, “because it’s a specification of how much you open the car up, and it’s always a balancing act between do you want to lose half a tenth in performance by having less efficient aero and opening the slot gaps up against the cooling…

“But technically [in Bahrain], it was running over what we thought we should be.”

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