26 June 2014
F1 Austrian Grand Prix: Lewis lost race in qualifying, insists Wolff
Mercedes F1's Toto Wolff admits that the team's pit-stops were not as good as they might have been in Austria, but were not the reason for Lewis Hamilton finishing second.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff insists that Lewis Hamilton's second place in the Austrian Grand Prix was as good as the team expected it to get for the Briton, and played down suggestions that he had been undone by slow pit-stops.
Hamilton started only ninth at the Red Bull Ring, having had his first Q3 qualifying time deleted for running wide at turn eight and then spinning at turn two on his final run, but worked his way through the traffic on the opening couple of laps to be running in the lead group for most of the race.
The grand prix eventually boiled down to a straight fight between the Briton and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg but, having emerged behind the German after his first stop and been unable to overhaul him second time around, he crossed the line just 1.9 seconds adrift, conceding another seven points in a championship battle slowly going Rosberg's way.
Hamilton admitted to being frustrated at losing time to his team-mate at both tyre stops, but claimed that he needed to check the video footage amid suggestions that his positioning may be to blame.
"I will investigate because obviously it is frustrating to lose time especially after you have done everything you can to gain a tenth here and a tenth there,” Hamilton said immediately after the race, “When you lose such a chunk of time over two stops, it is tough, but at least the guys didn't make any major mistakes - let's step back and look at it like that.”
Wolff, however, was keen to point out that the Briton's race had already been compromised 24 hours earlier, even if, as he conceded, Mercedes' pit-work had been a little cautious in Austria.
“[Lewis] lost the race in qualifying,” the Austrian insisted, “He recovered tremendously with a great start and great first lap, but in all our calculations, the best possible result was a second and he achieved that.
“Our pit-stops, generally, were not on the level we want them to be, partly because we erred on the conservative side as we had quite a gap to the other teams and didn't want to ruin that by a pit-stop with an unsafe release, but maybe that is something we need to look at and get more aggressive again if the gap to the other teams narrows down.
“But, in Lewis' favour, we pitted him early, before Nico – which is against what we normally do as it's usually the leading car that gets the call – in order to jump on Valtteri [Bottas], so he had the benefit of the strategy although he was running second on the track.
“I think that, when you recover from ninth [on the grid], you have been more aggressive on your tyres, more aggressive on your brakes, so it is how you manage your race. We can see two cars circulating pretty close to each other, but one [could be] managing the tyres better than the other one, one managing the brakes better than the other one. Both are in constant re-assessment of 'how much do I want to push the car at this stage in order to have the tyre when I need it at the end, or to have the brakes when I need them to defend or attack'...”
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