Mercedes boss Toto Wolff happy for Hamilton and Russell to go slower at Imola

Mercedes are still way off the pace heading into qualifying for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix despite bringing upgrades to Imola.

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has claimed he would prefer Lewis Hamilton and George Russell to be content in a slower Formula 1 car than “the other way around”.

The Silver Arrows pair experienced mixed fortunes in the final free practice session at the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, with Russell going fifth-fastest and ahead of Max Verstappen.

But Hamilton, who was left baffled with his lack of pace after find himself losing eight tenths to the Ferraris on the pit straight alone, finished down in 17th when the checkered flag was waved.

Despite that, both drivers had said the car was handling better than in Miami, where they enjoyed their best weekend of the season, and Wolff insists he will prioritise his drivers happiness over the pace of the W15.

Lewis Hamilton at 2024 Chinese Grand Prix | Mercedes / Sam Bloxham
Lewis Hamilton was 17th in FP3 at the Emilia Romagna GP. | Mercedes / Sam Bloxham

When asked why the Mercedes was struggling, Wolff told Sky Sports F1: “You’ve got to add performance into the car but I think there’s a bit more to uncover, we’re getting a lot too hot or too cold on the tyres, and that affects the situation.

“But I’d rather have the drivers say ‘the car is really good’ and we’re lacking a couple of tenths than the other way around.”

Mercedes can’t close gap despite upgrades

Mercedes continued to be well off the pace of the frontrunners in FP3, with Oscar Piastri fastest ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, and Hamilton was 1.4 seconds behind the Australian despite bringing upgrades to Imola.

Wolff remained upbeat that their development is heading in the right direction, but the Austrian supremo conceded they are unlikely to upset the current pecking order in Italy behind the McLarens, Ferraris and Red Bulls.

“I think McLaren on the one-lap and long run are with a good chance fastest, and it’s all of us bunched up. I still think the Ferraris, then the Red Bulls and then us, but it’s closer together,” Wolff added.

“We’re still positive, it’s [the upgrades] not going to change anything in terms of the pecking order. Maybe we’re a little bit closer to some of the teams but then again, McLaren is here, tremendously fast. I think our setup and development direction is definitely clear now and that’s encouraging.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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