Hamilton beat world championship leader Max Verstappen to the top spot on the Hungaroring grid, ending the Dutchman’s five-race pole position streak.
And with Mercedes having struggled with the balance of the car for much of the season and having little hope for this weekend’s event, Hamilton’s shock effort proved once again just how difficult the 2023 ground effect machines are to understand.
Speaking after qualifying, which included Alfa Romeo securing its best grid positions in several years, Wolff suggested the Hungaroring result was the latest evidence that the set-up compromises required for current cars make things almost impossible to predict.
“I think there’s definitely a part of these ground effect cars that is an enigma,” Wolff said.
“Performance seems to come and go for all teams – and congratulations to Alfa: they are fifth and seventh on the grid. I don’t think they really understand where this is coming from.
“Red Bull seems to be the only ones who really unlocked it and understood what’s going on, and maybe McLaren now.
“But it’s not something you can reverse engineer. It’s something you have to work on and come to the right conclusion.
Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO of Mercedes-AMG, is interviewed on stage
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Wolff thought the main thing for Hamilton to clinch his first pole position since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix was that the W14 finally gave him some confidence.
“The biggest weakness we have in the car is not a lack of downforce,” Wolff said. “The car is unpredictable.
“Drivers never have the confidence to push really hard in qualifying, and I think the car they had today was something that gave them confidence and allowed them to push without thinking that they might come out going into and out of the corner.
“That’s, I think, the main area we need to work on, giving them a car balance that’s just more predictable.”
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While Hamilton secured pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix, George Russell was disappointed 18th on the grid after failing to make it out of Q1.
Wolff said Mercedes had to take responsibility for what happened, with Russell having been put in bad traffic ahead of his effort to get out of the session.
“I think Q1 was overall messy, not just for us but for a lot of others,” he said.
“There were so many cars on one piece of track, and we just put it in the wrong position. The first moto was already compromised.
“Then obviously everyone grouping together at the last corner was less than ideal, we know that, and then there is no more codex (agreement) between the drivers, because he was overtaken by three cars between turn 13 and turn 14.
“It obviously completely screws up your last lap, but we have to take it upon ourselves that we didn’t put him in a better position.”