F1: Upgrades not reason for Hamilton ‘pole’ – Wolff

(GMM) Toto Wolff has denied that Mercedes’ car upgrades explain Lewis Hamilton’s shock pole position for the first-ever ‘sprint qualifying’ F1 race.

After just an hour of practice at Silverstone, the 2021 field headed into the sport’s first Friday qualifying session since 2003 – and championship leader Max Verstappen could only manage second best.

“I couldn’t really attack in a lot of corners because of understeer,” said the Dutchman.

“It was a very strange feeling on the wheel.”

Hamilton’s surprise quickest time was helped by a slipstream from his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who admitted: “Against a Red Bull like this, we can only do it with good team play.”

Verstappen, though, admitted that the new ‘sprint qualifying’ format may have put him on the back foot.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 16, 2021 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“The whole day felt a little strange,” he said. “You do a practice session and then qualifying starts.

“But actually the fastest times don’t mean much because it’s about the (sprint) race rather than pole position. So, it’s a completely different feeling.

“But we can still do well from here. We know we have a good car.”

Verstappen isn’t even worried about Hamilton’s home advantage, smiling to De Telegraaf newspaper: “Italy managed to win at Wembley, remember.”

Former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos told Ziggo Sport: “They (Red Bull) think it’s the tires. Maybe they got the temperatures wrong.

“But if you have some understeer, and you’re a few hundredths behind ‘the king’ Lewis Hamilton, then I don’t think you can say you had a bad day.

“The car is good,” he added.

The feeling in the paddock is that Mercedes’ decision to introduce a car upgrade had paid dividends, with Wolff having earlier said the team was fully focused on 2022.

“I don’t think it’s because of that,” Wolff insisted on Friday. “I think it’s more the result of many small, detailed changes in every area.”

Seven time world champion Hamilton has also been busy in the simulator, despite not usually enjoying it.

“I thought, ‘why am I sitting here wasting time?’ So we did the practice session on the simulator to give the team as much data as possible,” he said.