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Mercedes on the back foot but anything can happen in motor racing, says boss Toto Wolff

Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff speaks at a press conference prior to the third practice session at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: William West/AFP

Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff speaks at a press conference prior to the third practice session at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on Saturday. Photo: William West/AFP

Published Apr 9, 2022

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Melbourne — Mercedes are on the back foot in their Formula One championship defence as they continue to struggle with their W13 car, but they are not throwing in the towel, team boss Toto Wolff said on Saturday ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth for Sunday's race at Albert Park, one place ahead of team mate George Russell, but both are well off the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull.

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Charles Leclerc took pole for Ferrari, with world champion Max Verstappen second and his Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez third.

Mercedes, winners of the last eight constructors titles, have been wrong-footed by major aerodynamic rule changes introduced this season, with their performance and pace disappointing in the early races.

"I think we are on the back foot," Wolff told reporters at Albert Park of the team's title hopes.

"If I look at it from a mathematical standpoint and probability I would probably say that the odds are two-to-eight, but this is motor racing and in motor racing anything can happen.

"So as a motor racer I would say it's probably 40-60 ... We are not going to write the title off but it’s just the current status quo."

Mercedes' qualifying results were flattered by problems with Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz's set-up and Fernando Alonso's crash during the final phase.

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Sainz will start ninth on the grid, with Alpine's twice world champion Alonso 10th and disappointed after his car showed impressive pace during the earlier sessions.

Mercedes have suffered bouncing, or "porpoising", as downforce comes and goes this season, and Wolff said nothing they had tried in Melbourne had helped.

The drivers were happier with the setup on Saturday compared to Friday practice, however.

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"Night and day was the words that Lewis chose," said Wolff.

"The long runs will be interesting tomorrow but there is a gremlin in our car, or a few gremlins, that we haven’t found yet."

Wolff said there was a disconnect between the car's performance in simulation and on the track, which was confounding the team.

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"I’m optimistic that eventually we’re going to get there, whether that is in two races or five or by the end of the season," he added.

"I don’t know. We need to stay humble."

Reuters

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