Toto Wolff reiterated that Mercedes had the “fastest” car in Austin and have made progress with their latest upgrade, but is aware Red Bull finished working on the RB19 months ago.
Red Bull have been the dominant force throughout the F1 2023 campaign, so much so that only once in 18 grands prix have they suffered defeat.
Said defeat was inflicted by Ferrari back at the Singapore Grand Prix, where Carlos Sainz took the win with Max Verstappen P5.
Mercedes confidence boosted by US Grand Prix showing
Red Bull though, for the first time since Singapore, had to withstand a serious challenge for the win at the United States Grand Prix, as Lewis Hamilton crossed the line in his Mercedes just a couple of second behind victor Max Verstappen.
Mercedes, with one eye on their F1 2024 efforts, brought an upgraded floor to the Circuit of The Americas, this update clearly going down well with Hamilton who contended for sprint and US Grand Prix pole, with a runner-up finish in both events.
Hamilton was disqualified from the results, along with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc due to the FIA discovering excessive wear on the planks of their respective challengers post-race, but Mercedes nonetheless go into the Mexican Grand Prix buoyed by their Austin performance.
Wolff knows that Red Bull will have switched focus to their RB20 for next season already, Red Bull principal Christian Horner hinting as early as the summer that this was the case, though Wolff feels Mercedes can be confident too considering the upgrade gave them the positive step they wanted.
“It was the fastest car,” Wolff told Sky Sports Germany.
“It wasn’t enough for victory, but it was enough for a duel on equal terms with Red Bull.
“You shouldn’t forget that they probably completed the development of the current car three months ago and are already looking ahead to next year. That’s right, however, we now have another one. We’ve brought a big upgrade. The development direction is right. We wanted to see whether the subfloor worked.”
Title glory for Red Bull and Verstappen had been a foregone conclusion for much of the season, the trophies secured in Japan and Qatar respectively, though Hamilton is looking ahead to F1 2024 with renewed hope of a title challenge, believing he is one of few drivers on the grid who can bring the fight to Verstappen.
“I’m praying every day that we will close the gap [to Red Bull] and we’ll hit the ground running,” he said ahead of the US Grand Prix.
“I want to be fighting for the Championship, I want to be fighting Max. I believe I am one of the only drivers that can do so.
“But we’ve got to have the package, not only the car, but we’ve got to be operating better in our pit stops. There are so many areas we need to be levelling-up to be able to match the champions.”
Hamilton could still finish P2 in the F1 2023 Drivers’ standings, though it has become a tall task with his US GP disqualification meaning he now has a 39-point deficit to Sergio Perez to address with four rounds remaining.