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.”