Mercedes’ Toto Wolff believes his team’s deficit to the front has been halved after their Spanish Grand Prix updates.
Wolff reckons a 2022 title bid is not out of the question for Mercedes following a much more competitive Spanish Grand Prix for them.
Mercedes took a raft of updates to Barcelona, including a new floor design, which had the effect of significantly reducing the ‘porpoising’ effects that have cost them performance since the start of the season.
George Russell claimed a podium finish in Spain, while Lewis Hamilton recovered from falling to the very back of the field after a first-lap clash with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Climbing back to fourth, Hamilton was fifth at the chequered flag after a late technical issue forced him to slow.
Wolff claimed Hamilton’s drive made the Mercedes look a “World Championship-winning” car and the team boss said he now believes a title fight may be on the cards.
“I’ve seen a race car today that reminded me of the race cars of previous seasons, when you are 30+ seconds behind the whole field and you come all the way to the front and near the podium,” Wolff told media, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“That is very encouraging and shows we have made another step.
“Can we fight for the World Championship? We bet we can. But we just need to have a car that is able to finish first and second. And I think we have reasons to believe we can get there.”
Mercedes are currently third in the Constructors’ Championship, 75 points behind leaders Red Bull, while Russell is the higher-placed of the Mercedes pair in the Drivers’ Championship as he is 36 points away from Max Verstappen’s total.
“If you look at the odds, they are against us,” Wolff said.
“But motor racing is a different ball game. We’ve seen [on Sunday] that Ferrari didn’t score a lot of points even though they should. We are absolutely pushing flat out in order to bring us back into the game.”
As a result of the Spanish improvement, Wolff reckons the gap between the outright fastest car and the W13 has significantly reduced from being over a second a lap.
“These regulations have caught us off guard in a way, and step by step we are understanding what we need to do in order to bring the performance back into the car,” he said.
“We’ve seen another big step this weekend and probably we have halved the disadvantage to the front-runners. But still there is lots of way to go in order to be right up there in the fight.
“But having said that, we are third with George and that’s strong. His driving was unbelievable, the defending, the positioning. I’m so proud and happy in a way to see that – a great star, or a great driver in the making.”
Torquing Point: Mercedes show signs of life in Spain - Spanish GP Conclusion
Mercedes came to Spain with new upgrades, hoping to help sort the car out. And what we saw was a vastly improved team, one that might now be able to push on and capitalise on Red Bull and Ferrari's reliability issues.