Toto Wolff ‘okay’ with stewards call that denied Lewis Hamilton Sprint pole

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff in Bahrain

Toto Wolff is the team boss at the Mercedes F1 outfit

Toto Wolff is “okay” with the FIA’s decision to award pole position to Lando Norris in Sprint qualifying as his off through the final corner actually cost him time at the start of his pole lap.

Friday’s Sprint qualifying descended into chaos as the rain came down at the Shanghai International Circuit and any grip the drivers had completely disappeared.

Mercedes ‘okay’ with Chinese GP stewards’ thinking

Slipping and sliding around the track, Norris had a lap time deleted for putting all four wheels off the track through the final corner.

Under F1 regulations that usually means the driver’s next lap time won’t count as running wide can give them better speed out of the corner.

But given the rain and that he was three seconds slower as he started the next lap, the FIA opted not to delete his time with the McLaren driver taking pole position by 1.261s ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes will not be protesting.

“I haven’t seen that detail,” Wolff told Sky Sports, “I’ve just seen he has four tyres off track, but honestly that was even slower so he could have probably gone faster. So I’m okay with that.”

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With one Mercedes starting on the front row and the other down in 11th place, Wolff admits that was largely down to tyre preparation.

Having got it wrong in the opening two segments, Mercedes “played around” with Hamilton’s tyres in the shootout and helped him achieve his front-row start position.

“I think obviously the driving is most important in the wet,” said the team boss. “But I think it shows it’s about tyre preparation.

“We did the right thing on the final round, the tyres were in the sweet spot, and combined with a great drive that made the time.”

That tyre preparation included Hamilton making a pit stop during Q3 to swap to new intermediate tyres with Mercedes “playing around a little bit with the pressure.

“But the point is that you see George, both cars were not competitive in Q2 because the tyres never grip.

“Generating grip is not an easy task, and obviously we failed Q1, Q2 and got it right in Q3.”

Looking ahead to Saturday’s Sprint, Wolff does not know if Mercedes will have the upper hand on McLaren in the dry but doubts they’ll be able to keep the Red Bulls at bay with Max Verstappen starting fourth.

“I think we should have the pace in the dry,” he said. “I don’t think we have the pace against the Red Bulls but we do against the McLarens.

“But having said that, it’s also we don’t know. We have no data from FP1, it could be that they are much quicker too, or the other way around.”

Read next: Why Lando Norris’ deleted laptime earned him pole position for Chinese GP sprint