Frustrated Mercedes lose grip as 'stressful' season looms
Send a link to a friend
[March 27, 2017]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Mercedes'
three-year domination of Formula One looked on shaky ground on
Sunday as the Silver Arrows' confidence was rocked by Ferrari pace
and a Sebastian Vettel victory in the season-opening Australian
Bookmakers had pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton as a heavy favorite to win
at Albert Park but the Briton finished runner-up, nearly 10 seconds
behind Vettel after complaining of poor grip on the lakeside
Hamilton's frustrations were shared in the team garage where
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff pounded his fist on a desk in
rage after Vettel snuck in front of the Briton when re-joining the
race from a pit-stop.
The German then burned away for a dominant win that has raised hopes
of a genuine challenge to the Mercedes team that has swept the
drivers' and constructors' championships for the last three years
Three-times champion Hamilton had declared Ferrari the "quickest"
after winter testing and his forecast of a title fight with the
Italian glamor team appeared right on the mark.
"I donít lie. And Iím not really good at bluffing or playing poker,"
"I didnít know how quick they were going to be in the race. The pace
they showed in testing was true and today their speed in that first
stint on ultra soft tires was fantastic.
"My real strength wasnít until right at the end of the race but it
was far too late by then."
Wolff was also convinced Ferrari had the quicker car and saw testing
times ahead for a team that has largely raced itself for three
[to top of second column]
Williams driver Lance Stroll of Canada during the race.
"Some you win, some you lose and today the Ferrari was the quicker
car. And it put us under pressure straight from the beginning, and
thatís how we lost it," said the Austrian.
"Itís going to be very close, thereís no big margins between the
teams and also between our two team mates. Itís going to be a more
stressful season than in the past but personality-building."
Valtteri Bottas, who took champion Nico Rosberg's vacant seat
following the German's shock retirement last season, was third on
his Mercedes debut but the focused Finn was hardly jumping for joy.
"I struggled quite a lot with the ultra soft tires, I felt I was
sliding around, missing some front and rear grip," he said at the
post-race media conference.
"It wasnít a disaster but I will have my points that I will take.
"I think itís going to be a big challenge, we need to work really
hard if we want to beat (Ferrari). They were quicker today, no
(Editing by Toby Davis)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten