While hopeful that the next Formula 1 race in Singapore will prove a more competitive venue for his team than Monza, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff isn’t counting on it.
The low-downforce requirements of the Italian circuit Italy limited Mercedes to a distant fifth and sixth with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton respectively, while Ferrari took the fight to Red Bull as the second-fastest team by a comfortable margin. Despite Singapore being high downforce, Wolff says the number of teams in the mix behind Red Bull makes it tough to have confidence that Mercedes can target a better result next weekend.
“From last year into this year we need to be careful with our predictions — ‘We could go high downforce, hurray, we’ll be right behind Red Bull next week’ but we don’t know, that’s the truth,” Wolff said. “The teams from second to sixth can be pretty close together — that’s us, Ferrari and McLaren and Aston Martin.
“But we are consistently scoring with two cars, we are solidly second in the championship, hopefully soon third in the drivers’ championship with Lewis, so we are delivering the best possible job considering the car’s lack of performance.”
Wolff isn’t viewing the uncertainty as a negative, though, as he says there have been clear signs that Mercedes is becoming more competitive at a wider range of circuits based on where it was in Monza on Sunday.
“I think at one point we were two seconds off in Monza. I think we are making improvements — we are closer to the cars that are generally this season more competitive on low downforce. Let’s see if it swings around and if we can outperform them in Singapore.”
Despite Wolff’s caution, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin is optimistic that the car will be better suited to Singapore, despite the temporary changes to the track layout.
“We are certainly hoping!” Shovlin said. “There is a reason to think that the car will work better and that is because Singapore is a maximum-downforce circuit. Our performance at the high-downforce tracks like at Barcelona, Budapest and even Zandvoort the car was working well. We’re hoping to be able to be a bit quicker there and get back to a position where we can challenge for podiums.
Predictions about Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit are further complicated this year by changes to the track layout. Andy Hone/Motorsport Images
“The track does throw up some pretty unique challenges and we’ve also got some layout changes for this year. There is a sequence of four corners near the end of the lap that have been removed where the track used to go underneath a grandstand through a tunnel. That’s now gone so we’ve got a longer straight which will change a little bit how the tires are working.
“There is a bit less energy there but it’s also an abrasive tarmac. We’ve got the softest three compounds so it’s a pretty tough race on the tires and it’s also a bumpy street circuit. Added to that, the race is run at night. Plenty of challenges for us to try and tackle, but we are going there optimistic for a strong performance.”