Mercedes has admitted that it does not feel as comfortable about its chances in the Austrian Grand Prix as it has at recent races, despite outpacing Ferrari again.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg erased the memories of being out qualified by rivals Williams at the Red Bull Ring 12 months ago to lock out the front row of the grid – despite both running off track on their final runs.
But despite that success, and the fact that Ferrari was less a threat in qualifying than expected, Mercedes remains wary about the chances of its main competitors in the race.
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: “We knew that this was going to be a difficult one. The circuit is special with not very long straights, but then not a clear stop and go characteristics either and not quick chicanes which are good for our car.
“Plus the asphalt is very smooth. It is like a mirror and we didn't get it right last year. Again it is not the easiest track for us.
“Yes we have a front row lock out but, if you look at the gaps, also because of the shortness of the track, I am not feeling as confident for [the grand prix] as probably the feeling I had for the last couple of races.”
Qualifying laps key
In particular Wolff fears that Ferrari may not have been as quick as it could have been in qualifying, because it did not adopt a strategy of extracting the best speed from its tyres by a three-lap run.
“Yeah the gap was bigger than expected,” said Wolff. “I was a bit surprised also about the [Ferrari] strategy because we understood and learned over the weekend that you needed a second or even a third lap to get the tyres into the operating window.
“This is what we have done and Ferrari decided to go the other way and opted for lap number one. I don't know if this was the reason why we had more gap than we expected but the gap looks solid, it looks okay.
“But you cannot really say what is going to happen in the race because the long runs look pretty difficult for us. Ferrari was the quickest car on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning.”