Mercedes now in F1 title fight with Verstappen, says Wolff

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff believes his drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are now in a title fight against Red Bull and Max Verstappen

Mercedes now in F1 title fight with Verstappen, says Wolff

Following his spectacular victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Verstappen has moved up to second in the F1 drivers' standings on 77 points, 30 behind leader Hamilton, despite retiring in the first race in Austria.

Prior to last weekend Wolff had consistently cautioned that the season was far from over, despite dominant performances from Mercedes in the early races, and he believes that Verstappen's Silverstone win proved that the contest is still open.

"I think we have," he said when asked if F1 now has a title fight. "I kind of enjoy the situation because everyone was saying, 'OK, this is going to be a walk in the park for Mercedes,' and here we go.

"That wasn't at all a walk in the park. We were certainly not the quickest car, maybe not even the second quickest car. We have seen in the past that the hot conditions somehow don't suit our car but it's much more complex than that.

PLUS: How a ruthless Verstappen exploited Mercedes's strength-turned-weakness

"We have probably the quickest package, but the quickest package also involves the most downforce, and the most downforce works the tyres hardest. In that respect, we have to learn how to tune the car to help the tyres survive a little bit.

"I'm really curious to see and interested to see how we're going to do in Barcelona. We have a handful of days to understand, and there is nothing better than a great challenge.

"We embrace the challenge, we love the fight, and they're a strong competitor and Max is a very good driver.

"If you consider they had a full DNF at the beginning of the season, that gap is not large. It would only be five points behind and not 30.

"There are maybe 10 more races to go. DNFs can quickly make the points swing, and yeah, it could be much more interesting than many people were afraid of two weeks ago."

Red Bull boss Christian Horner said he's waiting for a "clearer picture" to emerge before making a call on Verstappen's prospects.

In the past the Milton Keynes team has traditionally become more competitive as the season has gone on, although the change in the schedule due to COVID-19 means that some of the circuits where it has excelled are not being used.

"It's difficult to say," said Horner when asked by Autosport if Verstappen can gain title momentum.

"I think Mercedes underperformed today, compared to the last few events, so I think it's going to be a few more races yet before we have a clearer picture on that. But we're delighted to get this first victory of 2020, particularly on this anniversary race."

PLUS: Why inflation left Mercedes poorer at Silverstone

Horner added that the second Silverstone event was the first true sign of the potential of the RB16.

"These cars put up a little bit of a fight so far," he said. "It has only been today that we have really seen the performance that we believe that it is capable of.

"So for us it is very important that we understand why it has performed so well today, in corners that we were weak in on Saturday today was no issue at all.

"The wind was a little bit less, temperatures were pretty similar to the last couple of days, and last weekend. Tyre pressures were slightly different, because of the problems Pirelli had last weekend.

"It is important for us to take away this data and analyse it and understand it, because we're definitely underperforming on Saturdays, where we are fighting over tenths with Racing Point and Renaults this weekend, and then we were lapping them in the race.

"So there is a big delta, and we've seen a bit of a pattern of that across the last four or five races. We've got a lot to understand, but it is really encouraging to have this performance. It rewards all the hard work that is going in."

shares
comments
How much fuel does a Formula 1 car use? F1, NASCAR & more compared

Previous article

How much fuel does a Formula 1 car use? F1, NASCAR & more compared

Next article

Racing Point: F1 Concorde Agreement still needs work around the edges

Racing Point: F1 Concorde Agreement still needs work around the edges
Load comments
The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team Plus

The final throes of Brazil's fleetingly successful F1 team

Emerson Fittipaldi is better remembered for his Formula 1 world championships and Indianapolis 500 successes than for the spell running his eponymous F1 team. Despite a hugely talented roll call of staff, it was a period of internal strife, limited funding and few results - as remembered by Autosport's technical consultant

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence Plus

Why McLaren's expanding agenda will benefit its F1 resurgence

In the 1960s and 1970s, McLaren juggled works entries in F1, sportscars and the Indy 500 while building cars for F3 and F2. Now it’s returning to its roots, expanding 
into IndyCars and Extreme E while continuing its F1 renaissance. There’s talk of Formula E and WEC entries too. But is this all too much, too soon? STUART CODLING talks to the man in charge

Formula 1
Oct 17, 2021
How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential Plus

How Tsunoda plans to achieve his F1 potential

Yuki Tsunoda arrived in grand prix racing amid a whirlwind of hype, which only increased after his first race impressed the biggest wigs in Formula 1. His road since has been rocky and crash-filled, and OLEG KARPOV asks why Red Bull maintains faith in a driver who admits he isn’t really that big a fan of F1?

Formula 1
Oct 15, 2021
The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages Plus

The danger of reading too much into F1's clickbait radio messages

OPINION: After Lewis Hamilton responded to reports labelling him 'furious' with Mercedes following his heated exchanges over team radio during the Russian Grand Prix, it provided a snapshot on how Formula 1 broadcasting radio snippets can both illuminate and misrepresent the true situation

Formula 1
Oct 14, 2021
Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers Plus

Why F1’s approach to pole winners with grid penalties undermines drivers

OPINION: Valtteri Bottas is credited with pole position for the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix, despite being beaten in qualifying. This is another example of Formula 1 and the FIA scoring an own goal by forgetting what makes motorsport magic, with the Istanbul race winner also a victim of this in the championship’s recent history

Formula 1
Oct 13, 2021
Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Plus

Turkish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

On a day that the number two Mercedes enjoyed a rare day in the sun, the Turkish Grand Prix produced several standout drives - not least from a driver who has hit a purple patch of late

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory Plus

The hidden factors that thwarted Hamilton's bid for shock Turkish GP glory

Starting 11th after his engine change grid penalty, Lewis Hamilton faced a tough task to repeat his Turkish Grand Prix heroics of 2020 - despite making strong early progress in the wet. Instead, his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas broke through for a first win of the year to mitigate Max Verstappen re-taking the points lead

Formula 1
Oct 11, 2021
How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form Plus

How pitstops evolved into an F1 art form

A Formula 1 pitstop is a rapid-fire blend of high technology and human performance. PAT SYMONDS describes how the science of margin gains makes stops so quick

Formula 1
Oct 10, 2021