Wolff: “I don’t think we have enough pace against Red Bull” if the track is dry for F1 Sprint

Lewis Hamilton driving in Chhina in the rain
Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Co-author: Chiara Martin

Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff is doubtful that Lewis Hamilton will be able to match Red Bull if the track is dry in the Sprint.

The German team had a mixed day in China. Lewis Hamilton qualified a superb second for the Sprint after briefly taking the provisional pole before pole-sitter Lando Norris’ time was reinstated after confusion over track limits.

Wolff said to Sky Germany: “If it’s dry tomorrow, which is possible, it’s a short race; I don’t think we have enough pace against Red Bull, but let’s see what the starting position is. But we have to be realistic.”

George Russell floundered at the Shanghai International Circuit, qualifying in 11th place after being caught out by rain late in SQ2, creating a gripless surface.

Mercedes struggled in the dry conditions early in qualifying and failed to match the quickest times at the sharp end of the field.

The cars queued at the end of the pit lane, causing the tyres to cool as they anticipated rainfall in the second part of Sprint qualifying.

The Austrian lamented the cars lining up at the end of the pit lane as Russell was eliminated: “Of course, it was huge for him, but also for all of us, because when you’re at the traffic lights in our car, two minutes in and the tyres are stone cold, then nothing works with our car. 

“Of course, that’s always difficult to manage because when the rain comes, you have to make a decision between standing in the queue or staying cool and waiting. And, of course, you can get caught out and be the only one with a wet car.

“So how you do it is wrong, but we definitely know that standing in a traffic jam at the traffic lights is not good.”

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

The top three drivers in Sprint qualifying all run Mercedes power units as Norris set the pace ahead of Hamilton and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

The circuit is very power-dependent due to a long pit straight and even 1.4km back straight, putting extra emphasis on top speed and power.

The 52-year-old was relatively pleased when asked about it: “If you try to look at it in a very positive way and make a correlation between the qualifying and the Mercedes engine, then yes, absolutely. Our engine is good to drive; we know that. And, of course, it helps the layout.”