Aston Martin may be collateral damage, says Mercedes F1 boss

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan - April 28, 2019 Mercedes' Executive Director Toto Wolff REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo

(Reuters) - Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff suggested on Saturday that Aston Martin might be paying a price for Formula One rule changes possibly aimed at slowing his own dominant team.

Silverstone-based Aston Martin, who are closely aligned with champions Mercedes, have complained that aerodynamic tweaks have affected their low-rake cars more than the likes of high-rake Red Bull.

High-rake cars ride higher at the rear while the Aston Martin and Mercedes are flatter to the ground, affecting airflow.

Aggrieved Aston Martin boss Otmar Szafnauer said on Friday he wanted to talk to Formula One's governing body about changing the aerodynamic rules -- something that is highly unlikely to happen.

"I understand the topic," Wolff told reporters after his seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton had qualified on pole position for Sunday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with Red Bull second and third.

"How the rules have fallen into place last year, one can always question what the motivation was," added the Austrian. "I think there is certainly the right to review and look at things and discuss them with the FIA to find out what has actually happened.

"That's why I respect Aston Martin's enquiry into the whole thing. Maybe things were targeted at us and they are collateral damage."

This year's cars are substantially the same as last season's, with major changes postponed until 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but aerodynamic tweaks to the floor have proved substantial.

Mercedes technical director James Allison said in January that the modifications, some of them only a few millimetres, were due to the risk of car performance being too much for the tyres and some circuit aspects.

Mercedes have won the last seven drivers' and constructors' championships, with Hamilton now the most successful driver of all time.

Red Bull have moved up a gear however, with Mercedes saying their Honda-powered rivals now have the faster car.

Aston Martin, with four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, appear to have slipped back in the pecking order after finishing fourth last year as Racing Point.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Clare Fallon)

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