Just a year ago a Mercedes front row lockout would have been the norm, but with Red Bull as strong as it is, in 2021 Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s result at the Italian Grand Prix Qualifying is something rare and special.
Toto Wolff says even the team was reminded of the good old days.
“In the intercom we said it’s as beautiful as in the old days, to get reminded again,” the Austrian told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying.
However, with Max Verstappen trailing Hamilton by just 0.017s, Wolff is not celebrating just yet.
“It depends on if you see the world from a half-full glass or a half-empty. We are half-empty and it’s a solid advantage. We can be happy with that.
“The critical part is trying to perform each and every weekend and not having any DNF’s.”
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Considering how close the title fight is between Lewis and Max, Wolff was asked if the team will discuss team orders ahead of the Sprint Race tomorrow.
“It is difficult, generally, when you have to call team orders because all of us as racers, we don’t want to see that.
“Everybody here should be aware [Bottas is in P1] on merit. But, in this case, Valtteri is going all the way to the back on Sunday [due to an engine related grid penalty], so we need to see how the start pans out.
“There’s not too much to discuss. Just be careful in the first corner, and then we’ll see where they are.”
However, asked if Mercedes could issue team orders in the Sprint Race itself, Wolff said: “Yeah presumably”.
Bottas himself admitted he didn’t feel any pressure in qualifying, after his long-term future in Formula 1 has been secured.
“He was really free,” Wolff said.
“He took a lot of risk on the first lap [in Q3] and went a bit wide, and then in his calm attitude he said: ‘If I have a tow, I can go three tenths faster’. So he had a tow.”
However, Bottas will start Sunday’s race from the back of the grid due Mercedes opting to give him a new engine. Wolff says the team felt it was necessary.
“We had a little bit of a worry because we wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. And in the sprint races format, it’s quite good because you have to take the penalty only for Sunday.”
In the end, the Austrian was asked if Mercedes expects to be able to fight back against Red Bull in Monza and in Russia.
“I think we are looking okay. We weren’t there in Zandvoort, but it was the Max factor also there. It was his home race in front of his home crowd.
“But let’s see how it pans out here and in Russia,” concluded Mercedes’ team boss.