Mercedes still trailing Ferrari, says Lauda

F1i 4/05/2017
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Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda believes that Ferrari still has the upper hand against Mercedes despite Valtteri Bottas’ win in Sochi last Sunday.

The German squad dominated Formula 1 in the past three season but this year a Ferrari resurgence has instilled doubt in the Mercedes camp.

“Ferrari is clearly ahead,” Lauda told the Austrian newspaper Krone.

“We need to analyse what exactly is not working and take the right steps for Barcelona.

“Because all the teams will bring updates, Ferrari will make a step forward, we have to make two and Red Bull needs to make three,” he added.

Mercedes has identified a chronic weakness in the way its W08 deals with tyre degradation, but Lauda insists that’s not the only problem facing.

It is said that Mercedes’ biggest problem is inconsistency with the tyres, but Lauda says that’s not the only issue affecting the Silver arrows’ performance.

“We have too much weight in the car, we need to improve the aerodynamics, and above all we need to understand why the new Pirelli tyres do not work as they do on the Ferrari,” he said.

Finally, Lauda appeared to agree with reports that suggest Valtteri Bottas is on course for a new contract for 2018, after winning in Russia.

“It was a perfect performance that I never expected,” he said.

“It was the right decision by Toto Wolff and myself to get Bottas on board. Bottas is our man.”

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Wolff: Too early to discuss Bottas' future at Mercedes

F1i 2/05/2017
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Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff wants to see how Valtteri Bottas perform in more races before considering any contract discussions with the Russian GP winner.

Bottas delivered a flawless race Sunday at Sochi, conquering his very first Grand Prix triumph after 81 races, 77 of which were done with Williams.

On the rostrum Sunday afternoon, master of ceremony Eddie Jordan pointed a finger at Toto Wolff down below, publicly urging Mercedes to extend with wait Bottas’ one-year contract.

But Wollf wants to see more before committing the German squad to the Finn’s future.

“I think to discuss his position in the team after a few races is foolish,” Wolff said.

“He should be given some time, because in the junior categories he did excellent results, and there was never a season when he was at Williams where he failed to beat his teammate.

“Now he has become Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, he has a pole position and he won the race today,” the Austrian added.

So for now, Wolff said he is happy with his choice about retired world champion Nico Rosberg’s 2017 replacement.

“This race showed that our decision for Valtteri was right,” he told Auto Bild in Russia.

“Both Valtteri and Nico are very analytical, with a calm approach. But the balance between him and Lewis also works well, and this dynamic is part of the success.”

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What we learned from the Russian GP

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While Valtteri Bottas might have run away with his first Grand Prix win in Russia, Sochi, there were plenty of takeaways from the Russian Grand Prix 2017.

With the Championship race now back on track, here’s a look at what all we learned from an exciting, close race that took place on Sunday.

IT WENT BADLY WRONG FOR HAMILTON

Lewis Hamilton was at a complete loss to explain why he was so far off the pace in Russia. He finished a yawning 36 seconds behind Bottas and 25 seconds adrift off third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

The writing however, had been on the wall. Hamilton was nowhere in practice and then qualified nearly six tenths of a second behind pole-sitter Vettel and more than half-a-second adrift of Bottas.

Hamilton was slow in Singapore and at the Japanese Grand Prix last year, too, but even then, the deficit of defeat to Nico Rosberg was not as big as in Sochi.

UNWANTED PROBLEM FOR MERCEDES

For all of Hamilton’s problems, his poor show must take nothing away from Bottas who registered the first victory of his career at attempt number 81.

Bottas was expected to play second fiddle to Hamilton, but he has now out-qualified him for two successive races and moved to within 10 points of his team-mate in the title battle.

This provides Mercedes with a mighty problem in that they cannot justify team orders if Bottas is doing the business. Yet it will be music to Vettel’s ears as his path to the title will be all that more simpler if Bottas and Hamilton continue to take points off each other.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH FOR BOULLIER

A furious Eric Boullier insisted that it is not acceptable for a team of McLaren’s might to see another of their cars absent from the start of the race.

First it was Stoffel Vandoorne in Bahrain, and then Fernando Alonso in Russia after his desperately poor Honda engine conked out on the way to the grid.

Alonso has failed to finish any of the opening four races, and the sight of him walking back to the McLaren garage was depressing, not just for the Spaniard and his McLaren team – but for the sport, too.

F1 is being deprived of watching one of its finest talents in action in what should be his pomp.

IT’S RADIO GAGA FOR RAIKKONEN

Kimi Raikkonen’s radio transmissions have become a thing of F1 folklore and the Finn provided much hilarity again on Sunday.

After Raikkonen rejoined the circuit following his one and only pit stop, he was informed by his Ferrari team that he was nine seconds adrift of Bottas – the man who he had been trailing for the entire race. This however, was news to Raikkonen.

“What do you mean we are behind Bottas?” He then added: “How did we end up behind him? Why did we not stop earlier?” Delivered in deadpan style, his engineer replied: “He was leading the race, Kimi.”

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