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Wolff spots clue behind ‘awful’ Mercedes run

Toto Wolff thinks Mercedes may have spotted a limitation with the W15, on a weekend in Japan which saw his team fail to make good on an off-set race strategy, something the Austrian bemoaned as "awful".

To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes whilst there is a relationship between track temperature and the W15’s performance, it is not to blame for his team’s lack of pace in the opening stint of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes had hoped to see a step forward in performance this year as the team ushered in a new car philosophy, but with the season four rounds in, the eight-time Constructors' Champions appear to have taken a relative step backwards compared to its rivals.

Last time out at Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were unable to make use of an ambitious one-stop strategy, ending the race in seventh and ninth position respectively.

Speaking to media including RacingNews365, Wolff explained the biggest issue the team faced during the race in Japan.

“It was three degrees different in track temperature between stint one and stint two,” the Austrian remarked, when asked if it was correlation or causation behind the W15 performing better in cooler conditions.

“As much as I believe there is a relationship between our performance with the track temperature, I don't think it was the reason for our awful performance in the first stint.

“It was trying to extend it to one stop, losing lots of time with the overtakes – more so than the track temperature.”

A limitation of the W15 spotted?

With just 34 points to show for its season so far, the Brackley-based team sits over 100 points behind championship-leading Red Bull – George Russell’s fifth place in Bahrain remains its best return, whilst the energy drinks manufacturer has sealed three one-two finishes.

Three years into the current regulations cycle, Mercedes appear no closer to understanding the most recent ground-effects F1 cars, nor how to extract the most out of its package.

Despite third and second place finishes in the previous two Constructors’ Championships, the team have fallen to fourth this season and is at risk of being overtaken by Aston Martin, who is just behind with 33 points.

When asked if he feels there is anything Mercedes had unlocked during the weekend in Japan that might be able to be carried forward, Wolff said: “I think that the car is so complex for us, in terms of the aero balance and the mechanical balance – these two need to correlate.

“We’ve followed a certain trajectory over the last years and keep turning in circles, and we came to a point to say ‘okay, we’ve got to do something different here', because we are measuring downforce with our sensors and pressure tabs and it’s telling us we have 70 points more downforce in a particular corner in Melbourne than we had last year, but on the lap time, it’s not a kilometre per hour faster, so it doesn’t make any sense.

“So, where’s the limitation? I think we wanted to tick some boxes to understand: is there any limitation we have spotted, and I think there is.”

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