Mercedes AMG Team Prinicpal Toto Wolff is adamant driver error is to blame for his team’s woes in qualifying after Ferrari took their first pole position and front row lockout of the season.
Valtteri Bottas finished just 0.095s behind Vettel’s eventual pole time, but even that was only good enough for a P3 start from the second row.
“Valtteri could even have been on pole with his final lap until a small mistake in the last sector,” Wolff admitted to media following the qualifying session.
In all of his post-race media interviews, Bottas never made any indications that he made a mistake on his final lap in Q3.
It does appear on replays that Bottas did run slightly wide at the final corner.
Wolff’s claim is backed up by statistics, that suggest Bottas would’ve got pole if he’d strung his best sectors together all at once. Bottas’ fastest three sectors add up to a time 0.122s faster than that of pole position.
Doing the same equation for Vettel, his time only improves to a 1:33:182, which proves Bottas did have the pace to steal the pole away.
— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) April 29, 2017
“I think we can see Ferrari were quicker today,” he told media.
Wolff did agree with Bottas that Mercedes have failed to extract the true pace out of their car this weekend.
In the closing minutes of Q3, both Mercedes drivers were up on the Ferrari drivers by over a tenth in the first sector alone, but their tires failed to provide sufficient grip throughout the lap.
Bottas said in the post-qualifying press conference, “For sure [Ferrari] have a very good car and we are struggling to compete with them but we can.”