Mercedes fears Kimi Raikkonen strategy gamble in Azerbaijan GP

Kimi Raikkonen should have been the man to beat in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and is still a threat despite his qualifying error, believes Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff

Raikkonen was on target to beat Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel to pole before a mistake that left him sixth on the grid.

He will also have to start on the less-favoured ultrasoft tyre, unlike the five cars ahead, because mistakes and a lack of spare supersofts compromised his tyre plan in Q2.

But Mercedes believes Ferrari could take strategic risks with Raikkonen.

Asked by Autosport if Raikkonen was still a danger, Wolff replied: "Absolutely. He is on a different tyre, the question is how long can he stay out?

"But if you imagine there is a really high chance of a safety car in the early laps, they could go on a harder tyre and drive to the end - which is a bold strategy.

"If you are in a position like him, similar to the Red Bulls in China, you can take risks and these risks sometimes pay off.

"He was the quickest car out there and he should have been on pole."

Daniel Ricciardo, who used Red Bull's alternative strategy to win in China, said the Azerbaijan tyre situation too complicated to be certain that a straightforward supersoft-then-soft one-stop plan was best.

"It depends how long we can go at the beginning. If the supersoft is not graining, that's the main thing," he said.

"If it grains, then I think everyone will go to the soft. If it looks like it can handle it, maybe then they'll risk the ultra.

"Ideally if we had to use the ultra, you try and use it later, when the fuel is less.

"But then again, the track will probably get colder and colder.

"If you're forced to use it, use it and then just hope we can look after it one way or another."

Wolff admitted that Mercedes has found it harder to make strategic calls in 2018 now it has both Ferrari and Red Bull to fight.

"Strategy has become much trickier when there are six drivers that are in the hunt for a win," he said.

"What we need to do is to stick to our strategies and our tools, improve them all the time, but equally not let ourselves be out there, victim of outliers.

"Red Bull didn't have a lot to lose [in China], they were bold and rewarded with the win and they deserved it.

"We will still stick to the way we have done it in the past. But it has become more difficult."

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