Mercedes enjoyed mixed fortunes in Australia, for while both cars ran at the front early on, helped by an unusually long first stint, ultimately an unplanned third stop left Lewis Hamilton fifth, while Nico Rosberg retired with an electrical problem.
However the company’s motor sport boss Toto Wolff says it was a good start to the season for his team
“I think the car is a solid car, and the base seems to be there,” Wolff told this writer. “The tyre is even more difficult to understand than last year. You had one Lotus winning the race, and the other one finishing 10th. We were looking good on the option tyre at the beginning, we extended the window and suddenly on the prime, the tyre went over the cliff.
“Fifth place is solid. There are lots of lessons to be learned in terms of strategy and tyre management. We ran very well on the soft tyre in the first few laps, and it looked like a two-stop strategy was the way forward, but the hard wouldn’t work.
“The work we’ve done over the winter was good. Now it’s just about keeping the head down, and continuing to work. It looks like we are among the top five teams, and this was my personal target.”
Wolff said it was too early to draw too many conclusions about the relative one lap and race pace of various cars.
“The interesting thing is the winner started seventh, and the pole position car finished third, and struggled a lot with the tyres. Can you say that every car has a certain pattern, or a certain DNA? Maybe. Lessons to be learned could include compromising the Saturday result even more for the Sunday result, in terms of set-up. This is what we’re going to see in the next few races from all the teams, I guess.
“Malaysia is the next lesson to be learned, in very hot conditions, and see what is going on. I think it’s just about continuing to develop and perform and staying calm and focussed, and then it’s about the end of the year. We want to progress in comparison to last year. Lots of teams are having a headache at the moment with the tyres.”
Wolff said he was delighted with the way both the drivers performed.
“Lewis seems to enjoy himself with the team, and is having a good time. Nico was very good the whole weekend. Obviously qualifying wasn’t the way he expected, but there’s no reason to be depressed about that. They both did a fantastic job, and every reason to be proud of this.”