Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff admits that the delay in introducing its upgraded Phase 2.1 engine was a blessing in disguise – because the extra time allowed more performance to be found.
The upgrade was scheduled to be introduced under the Phase 2 name across all six Mercedes-powered cars in Montreal, but it was postponed after last minute problems in dyno testing.
Instead all six drivers had to use their first 2018 engines for a seventh and last consecutive race, instead of saving them for a final outing at the less power-sensitive Hungaroring, which was the original plan.
After some revisions and further dyno testing the new engine, now known as a Phase 2.1, was finally introduced for the French Grand Prix weekend at Paul Ricard.
Wolff says the final version has better performance than it would have done in Canada.
“We were due to have the [Phase 2] engine for Montreal,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com. “Everything ran as predicted, and engines were shipped.
"Then on one of the last long runs we saw some oddities, irregularities, that didn’t give us 100 percent confidence to run the engine in Montreal. So we decided to stay with Phase 1.
“And eventually these couple of days more not only compensated for what we have as a package, but we have consolidated the performance we expected, but added a bit more.
"And why we were a bit restrictive about speaking about on Friday was we had this situation in Montreal, we didn’t want to say we had the new engines and then we didn’t have them in for the race weekend.”
Wolff admitted that the delay had turned out to be fortunate: “I believe generally in karma, and everything happens for a reason. Write that on your website and everyone will think I’ve lost the plot!
“But it didn’t come for a reason, maybe we needed just a little bit more time to consolidate the gains and be confident on what we had in order to extract the maximum performance.
"I know you want the numbers and everything, but I can’t give them to you.”
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas locked out the front row in French GP qualifying with their new power units.
Both will start on supersofts after using the red-marked rubber in Q2, unlike their Ferrari rivals, and Wolff believes this choice is the right one.
“Interestingly it was different from what we thought, we thought that Red Bull would probably try to qualify on the ultra, and Ferrari like us on the supersoft, and then it was the other way around," he said.
"We just had a little bit more confidence in the supersoft to last, and this is why we think this is the right tyre to start. There’s not much difference in terms of overall race time between an ultrasoft start tyre or supersoft.
“The weather is a little bit of a question mark. We saw today how quickly it can swing, and even in the F2 race it provided a lot of drama, and opportunity.
"I think this is the biggest contributor, In terms of temperatures we’ve pretty much seen [on Saturday] what expect for [Sunday]. And I don’t think there are going to be many variants of strategy.”