Toto Wolff could take little encouragement from how Mercedes performed in Austrian GP qualifying, but Lando Norris and Ferrari had him looking ahead with excitement to Silverstone.
Mercedes came into the Austrian Grand Prix off the back of far improved performances at the Spanish and Canadian GPs, the upgraded W14 seemingly bringing the team far closer to Formula 1’s dominant force Red Bull.
It was back to the dark days though for Mercedes on qualifying day in Austria, taking place on Friday of this sprint weekend, with Lewis Hamilton qualifying P5 while George Russell missed out on Q3 after seeing his best Q2 lap deleted for a breach of track limits.
Lando Norris and Ferrari inspire Mercedes
Hamilton would lose out to not only the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, but also Lando Norris, who armed with the upgraded McLaren MCL60 in Austria, secured a mighty P4 on the grid for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
Mercedes will bring the next stage of their W14 development programme to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix which follows Austria, and so Wolff is hoping that will allow Mercedes to move forwards again, like Ferrari and McLaren did with their new parts in Austria.
“Overall underwhelming,” was Wolff’s assessment of qualifying for Mercedes when speaking to Sky Sports F1.
“I think we came with expectations that we would be fighting for P2, P3 with the Ferraris or the Aston Martins and we underperformed.
“You see that the time gaps are not huge, you’re talking two-tenths up and down and it makes a big difference, or three-tenths.
“So we’re bringing something to Silverstone and it looks like hopefully it has an impact like it had on the McLaren and the Ferraris today.”
George Russell desperate for qualifying form turnaround
Austria marked the second time in three races that Russell did not feature in Q3, and the Brit was clear that he must find a way to reverse this slide, admitting that he simply was “not quick enough” in Austria qualifying.
“Just not quick enough today,” he said. “I think from the first laps, we just hadn’t got the right feeling with the car. It’s difficult when you go to a sprint race weekend, you don’t have a lot of time to make some changes.
“Obviously P11 isn’t the best starting position, but we’ve had some good results from further down the field so far this year, so all is not lost.
“I think the tyre deg looked pretty bad in practice, so we’re probably looking at a two-stop race, but need to understand what’s going on at the moment because [I’m] struggling a bit, especially on Saturdays.”
Mercedes will have another attempt to unlock some one-lap pace on Saturday as the sprint shootout sets the grid for the sprint race later that day.