It was a tough Saturday for the Silver Arrows in Monte Carlo as the excitement of Valtteri’s superb run to take P3 on the grid - just fractions shy of the two Ferraris – was tinged by Lewis dropping out in Q2 after a tricky Qualifying.
Valtteri: Tomorrow is Monaco, where anything can happen
After a fantastic scrap in Q3, the top three were covered by just 0.045s, as Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen claimed his first pole since 2008.
“This weekend has been a bit tricky for us,” said Valteri. “We started well in FP1 before getting a bit lost with the set-up in FP2. Then it was difficult to get a lap together in Qualifying as well. It takes two to three laps to build the temperature up and find the right balance and feel for the car.
“It was very close today but Ferrari seems to have the upper hand here - they were very strong this afternoon. Of course it would be nice to start on the front row but anything is possible from P3 on the grid.
“It's difficult to overtake here but it's definitely a race of opportunity. Tomorrow is Monaco, where anything can happen.”
Lewis: I really struggled with the car today
Team-mate Lewis struggled for grip throughout Qualifying and was forced to watch the top 10 shootout from the side-lines after being unable to complete a lap that would have put him into Q3 owing to yellow flags as Stoffel Vandoorne crashed out at the Swimming Pool.
“I really struggled with the car today and I just don't think the opportunity was quite there for me,” said Lewis. “It was a little bit unfortunate with the yellow flag, but it doesn't really matter now if I could have gone faster. I think that lap may have just got me into the top 10 but I would have struggled to make it into the top five with the pace that I had.
“Valtteri didn't have any struggles today so I'm a bit confused and I can't pinpoint the problem at the moment. I'm feeling pretty deflated right now but I'll try again tomorrow. It's great that Valtteri extracted a good lap. We just need to identify why I wasn't able to be up there too. Onwards and upwards.”
Toto: Two very different qualifying results today for Lewis and Valtteri
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff is expecting a long afternoon on Sunday, but insists that the Silver Arrows are not out of the fight just yet.
“Two very different qualifying results today for Lewis and Valtteri,” said Toto. “With Lewis, you could see even from the TV pictures that he was struggling with the car and nearly lost it a couple of times in qualifying.
“We don't know at the moment what went wrong: we took a false turn with the set-up on Thursday and, since then, although we tried to retrace our steps, we never got it back on track for him. Of course he was unfortunate with the yellow flag for Vandoorne in Q2, as he was on course to make it through the session, but the car never felt good for him after FP1 and that made it tough to put together the laps.
Toto: Ferrari are clearly in the driving seat for tomorrow but we will be in the hunt, too
“Tomorrow's race will clearly be a case of damage limitation for him and trying to maximise his points score; but he will fight to the last lap.
“For Valtteri, it was quite a different outcome. The result he achieved didn't look possible for much of the session but he really pulled out a fantastic lap on the final run in Q3 - and came just a few thousandths shy of a place on the front row. Ferrari are clearly in the driving seat for tomorrow but we will be in the hunt, too.”
James: That was an excellent lap from Valtteri
It was admittedly a rough day for the Silver Arrows, but Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport Technical Director James Allison still believes that the team is in with a shout of a good result come race day.
“That was an excellent lap from Valtteri who wrung every last drop of performance out of the car this afternoon and gave us a fighting chance in the race with a P3 grid position,” said James.
“Clearly we have a significant job of work on our hands to understand why the car was so difficult to drive for Lewis - and to figure out what we can do with the limited adjustments we can make, and the slightly greater freedom in race strategy, to recover as good a result as possible tomorrow.”
The Silver Arrows will be back on track on Sunday, as the lights go out for the most famous race of them all, the Monaco Grand Prix!