Chinese Grand Prix – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff conceded that the team believed track position to be more important than fresh tyres during the safety car period at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Throughout the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes were seemingly unable to provide an answer for the raw pace of the Ferrari’s.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton were out-qualified by the two Ferrari’s, but the former made a strong start to the race to challenge race-leader Vettel.
A well-executed undercut allowed Bottas to take the lead of the race, but both Mercedes and Ferrari were caught out by the safety car period.
The Red Bulls pitted both of their drivers to supply them with softer tyres and Daniel Ricciardo went on to fight his way to the front and win the race.
Speaking after the race, Wolff praised Red Bull’s call to pit both of their drivers during the safety car period, and explained that, at the time, Mercedes believed track position to be more important.
“Ultimately, the reality of our pace is that we lacked pace in each phase – Sebastian managed the performance in the opening stint, building a good gap to Valtteri, and the Red Bulls were significantly faster on fresher tyres after the Safety Car,” said Wolff.
“At that stage we believed that gaining track position was key as we did not see any overtaking in the first part of the race. In the end we must admit that the decision from Red Bull to pit for a fresh set of tyres under the safety car was the right call but that was not a given at that stage of the race.”
Wolff also praised Bottas’ drive, which resulted in a back-to-back second places for the Finn.
“The best part of our day was undoubtedly Valtteri’s drive,” added Wolff, “the pit wall called an aggressive undercut, the boys delivered a perfect pit stop and he claimed first the position over Sebastian, then the lead from Kimi with a bold pass round the outside.
“We saw a real fighter in the car today and, while he was unfortunate with the Safety Car timing opening the door for Red Bull, he protected P2 in a perfect way.
“P2 and P4 is some good damage limitation from a tricky race but it is little comfort that this puts us in the lead of the constructors’ championship as we head home.
“We have seen the competitive picture change quickly over the past three races and it’s clear that we still have much to understand about our car and how to get the best from the tyres.
“We have been in tough spots before in recent years and shown the right spirit to respond. We will do the same again this time.”