Wolff surprised by Ferrari win, but defends Mercedes strategy calls

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has explained how Sebastian Vettel’s victory for Ferrari in yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix took the German marque by surprise, but will only act as an incentive to increase development and up its game in 2015.

Vettel shocked the F1 world by winning the race in Sepang on Sunday, perfecting a two-stop strategy and underpinning it with a solid pace to lead home the three-stopping Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Speaking to the media after the race, Wolff admitted that he had not expected Ferrari to catch Mercedes so quickly.

“No, I didn’t,” he said. “We’re always a little bit skeptical about our own advantage. We always believe that we have to keep sharp and to keep developing or we might get caught.

“But to be caught up within two weeks and lose the race is a bit of a surprise. It’s a bit of a wake-up call which is good for us.

“We need to increase the pace of our development. We have everything we need. Maybe put some things on the car earlier than we planned, but there’s no reason to panic.”

Starting from pole position, Hamilton appeared to be in the running to win the race until his final pit stop, when Mercedes fitted the Briton with hard tires instead of mediums, giving him no advantage over Vettel.

Hamilton himself had expected to use mediums, but was informed by the team that the only remaining set was worn after being used in the Q1 stage of qualifying on Saturday.

Wolff defended the strategy that Mercedes used in Malaysia, saying that Ferrari had simply been too good for the German team.

“Today’s strategy wasn’t a gut decision – it is algorithms and lots of scientific research and we add that little bit of racing spirit,” Wolff explained. “Today we relied on information we had over the weekend and what we’ve seen with the Ferrari was better than expected.

“On our own pace we were probably just about right. This is why we were confident that we would catch them at the end, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III