Wolff: Singapore qualifying represents major step forward for Mercedes

MARINA BAY, Singapore — Lewis Hamilton’s pole position lap at the Singapore Grand Prix represents a significant breakthrough for Mercedes, according to team boss Toto Wolff.

Mercedes has historically struggled for performance at Singapore, and ahead of the race weekend was viewed as the underdog in the fight against Ferrari. But on Saturday night, Hamilton took pole position by over 0.3s from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen with Sebastian Vettel 0.6s off in the Ferrari in third.

Wolff said the result was partly down to Hamilton’s exceptional lap but also a result of the team getting on top of the traction and tyre issues it had at the Belgian Grand Prix last month.

“Today was teamwork,” he said. “I think from Lewis’ side, for me that was stardust; the most epic lap I have ever seen from him. I never go on the radio, it’s the first time I went on the radio to him today because I haven’t seen anything from him like this before.

“We knew exactly what kind of split times that car was able to do, but in sector one and sector two when the purple times kept popping up it was surreal — so that was his driving.

“Then I must really take my hat off to the work that was being done in the UK, in Brackley and in Brixworth to prepare the car and the engine for this race because, together with Monaco, it is our weakest race track.

“We were really not competitive here in the past and we found the right clues. Again the difficult days in Spa have given us direction and at least for qualifying, this team has made a major step forward today, over this weekend generally. And again, it was the tough experiences from the past that have showed us the way.”

Wolff revealed that Mercedes had considered trying to qualify in Q2 with the ultra-soft tyre in order to avoid starting on the hyper-soft, which is susceptible to degradation on heavy fuel. But after both cars struggled for performance on the ultra-soft in Q1, the team opted for hyper-softs for both cars.

“We were thinking of splitting the strategy between the two cars and running one on the ultras and the other one on the hypers but it was immediately clear that none of the front running teams would have the pace to go through.”