Wolff wary of ‘more stumbling blocks’ after Mercedes setback

Toto Wolff admits Mercedes will be up against it if it suffers more problems after a gearbox issue all but wiped out its running on the opening morning of pre-season testing.

Valtteri Bottas completed an installation lap at the start of the three-day test in Bahrain, but when he went to return to the track he never left the garage and screens were immediately put up as work started taking place. Mercedes confirmed a gearshift issue required a gearbox change and Wolff says the team hasn’t been able to look into the problem yet.

“We weren’t very fast this morning because we only did one lap with the aero rake,” Wolff said. “It wasn’t a good start because we had a gearbox issue that came out of nowhere that we haven’t yet been ready to identify and understand. If we are able to have a smoother ride from here onwards then I think we can recover. If we have more stumbling blocks, then obviously with three days there’s not a lot you can do.”

Bottas was limited to just six laps in total as a result of the issue, with Mercedes opting to stick to its original plan to swap drivers during the lunch break. Lewis Hamilton took over but only emerged from the garage an hour into the afternoon session.

When the Mercedes did run, however, it showed off its 2021 floor that features a wave-like structure along the edge, and Wolff admits the team was keen to hide both that and where it has spent its development tokens to retain a competitive edge.

“It looks good, optimizing the floor around the lack of aerodynamic performance that we have with the new regulations and let’s see whether it can be translated into real performance.

“I think not everything needs to be put out into the public. I think it’s a war of information, a competition of information. I’m sure you haven’t seen all the cars in the specifications that they’re going to be raced in Bahrain in two weeks’ time, so that is part of it.”

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