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Bahrain Cooling F1 Impact

Wolff: Engine Issue Proved Costly for the Team

03/03/2024

In Bahrain, cooling issues led to significant lap time losses for Mercedes and Williams, impacting their race outcomes and stirring technical queries.

Without these reliability hiccups, George Russell, who had moved up to 2nd after overtaking Charles Leclerc early in the race, could have potentially contended for a podium finish. As a reminder, George Russell finished 22 seconds behind Carlos Sainz, who was 3rd, and 47 seconds behind Max Verstappen, after 57 laps.

But what exactly caused this problem, and more importantly, why didn’t Mercedes F1 better anticipate it, especially after winter testing on this same Bahrain circuit?

Toto Wolff offered some potential explanations after the race.

“The winter tests went quite well. The performances on Thursday and Friday were also promising. The car was stable, which was good. The drivers liked it. When we started the race on the soft tires, everything went as planned.”

“Then, unfortunately, we had to use the engine less than anticipated. We still don’t understand where this issue is coming from. One of our customer teams, Williams, experienced the same problem. The other two, McLaren and Aston Martin, did not. It was unexpected.”

“From there, if you’re losing 3 or 4 tenths due to the power unit, then you have to lift and coast… so at times, it was probably 5 or 6 tenths of a second in total that we were losing, compared to the potential of the car. Therefore, it wasn’t very enjoyable… Sometimes, we weren’t just a few degrees over, but 10 degrees above what we thought we needed to be.”

“Even without traffic, at the start of the race, we were already over the limit. We didn’t know because we use virtually the same cooling levels as in long runs, the days before. It’s just that there was a more significant spike than we thought.”

Toto Wolff suggests a direction: Mercedes went too extreme with cooling adjustments. And it cost them dearly.

“I don’t believe any other team opened up the car more with additional cooling vents – not more than they had before. So, it’s something that was probably more related to us.”

Verstappen is ‘in another galaxy’ according to Wolff

Without these engine issues, George Russell would have still finished behind Max Verstappen but perhaps ahead of Carlos Sainz.

So, is there hope for Mercedes F1? Or is Toto Wolff disheartened to see Max Verstappen continue to dominate F1 so thoroughly?

“Max was in another galaxy. The performance was extraordinary. Unfortunately, yes, he was untouchable. We just have to acknowledge that his performance level is very high. In qualifying, we were quite close. That was good, and I believe our performance in the race was masked by our issues. Perez is 20 seconds behind his teammate, so we have hope. It may be the sliver of hope I see, but it’s very thin and distant, and I can hardly see that far.”

“But we saw differences between the Ferraris, and I think the Ferrari, McLaren, and Mercedes group was probably on a similar pace. We just have to look at ourselves, solve our problems, and if we can manage our race weekend better, we’ll be in the race with these guys.”

“We have to ask why we lost so much performance on the hard tires. As I said, we got the cooling level wrong, had to do lift and coast, and so we lost performance on the tires. It was a bit of a vicious circle.”

“It’s strange because we had pace in the car but not on the hard tires. I think we made a lot of mistakes, but in the end, we learn. We have a brand new car and we see signs of performance, but we couldn’t capitalize on all of it, so I’m looking forward to looking at the data and seeing what we can do.”

Isn’t Toto Wolff even disappointed to have seen Charles Leclerc get past George Russell towards the end of the race?

“There are some quirks. Ferrari and we both gave them (Leclerc and Russell) a car that wasn’t competitive enough for the race. And I think we know why, but it’s clear they both struggled during the race. You could see that.”

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