Japanese Grand Prix – Toto Wolff has played down the advantage shown by the Mercedes team during free practice, adding that Ferrari are heavily sandbagging.
Mercedes looked a dominant force during Friday free practice; Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in both sessions and finished eight tenths of a second ahead of championship rival Sebastian Vettel.
Such was the pace of Hamilton, his lap time on the soft-compound tyre – the ‘middle’ tyre for this weekend – would’ve been good enough for second place in free practice two and still faster than Vettel’s supersoft effort.
However, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has played down the big gap to their rivals, saying that Ferrari have an advantage through the fast corners.
“Yeah, they turned it (their engine) down a bit,” said Wolff. “We are actually losing a bit through the fast corners. So the lap time flatters us a little bit at the moment. We’ll see how that looks in qualifying tomorrow.
“In the morning they were quicker through almost every corner but they had softer rubber. When we had both the same tyre, we seem to be gaining a bit on the straight line.
“That makes me doubt whether they have really shown their full performance. Through the Esses they are a bit quicker, so it’s neck-and-neck even though the lap times seems to show a larger gap.”
Ahead of the race at Suzuka, Hamilton’s championship lead stands at 50 points, with Vettel desperately needing to take points off his rival in order to have a chance of taking the drivers’ title.