Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff believes Racing Point is a "race winning contender" after the team has taken a controversial step forward for 2020.
He believes the Racing Point cars, which have been officially protested by Renault amid allegations that the brake ducts are of a Mercedes design, will be a "tough nut to crack" even for the currently dominant world champion team.
Wolff also believes the Racing Point cars are faster than the works Mercedes machines in some corners on the Hungaroring circuit.
Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez qualified third and fourth in Hungary, behind the two works Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
All four got through Q2 on the medium tyres and therefore will run them at the start.
"I'm happy for Racing Point because we were hearing in the past years always that the smaller teams on the smaller budgets were not able to compete at the front," Wolff said when asked about the Silverstone team's form by Autosport.
"And here we go, somebody with a vision and an idea of where to prioritise has managed to really make the jump from the midfield into the top teams.
"The Racing Point is a podium contender, if not a race winning contender, going forward.
"It proves that with the right leadership, the right decision making process and the right funding you can actually accelerate your development curve.
"So lessons to be learned, and I'm happy to see them there."
Wolff was keen to downplay the contentious issue of Racing Point copying last year's Mercedes W10.
"I can't judge because I'm not looking under the bodywork," he said. "From outside everything has been within the regulations.
"Racing Point has been in close contact as far as I understand with the FIA about the whole process.
"They seem to have re-engineered our car, they have bought non-listed parts from us last year, and they are just doing a good job.
"All the complaining we heard last year that the smaller teams are never able to compete for podiums and race wins is being shown it's absurd, because Racing Point is right up there, they are faster in some corners than we are, and it's a good challenge to see that.
"I have no doubt Racing Point will be a hard nut to crack on some of the circuits for us as well."
Wolff also pointed out that buying parts from top teams was a logical shortcut to success.
He said: "It's like Nikolas Tombazis has formulated it, it's less a technical discussion and more a philosophical discussion - should the smaller teams be allowed to be supplied parts from the bigger teams for less R&D, and the bigger teams to make some business out if it, or should everybody just develop their own chassis and own R&D? Which as a consequence will probably mean there's a two-tier society even with a cost cap.
"In that respect I'm happy that there is a process in place that will clarify those regulations, will make it transparent for all stakeholders what the FIA and FOM wish to happen in the future, and then we move on from that."
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