Toto Wolff makes surprising McLaren pace claim as Mercedes well beaten

Sam Cooper
Lewis Hamilton ahead of Sergio Perez. Budapest, Hungary. July 2023.

Lewis Hamilton ahead of Sergio Perez. Budapest, Hungary. July 2023.

Toto Wolff and George Russell both believed Mercedes had the second quickest car in Hungary despite not finishing on the podium.

Lewis Hamilton failed to capitalise on his pole position and ended the race P4 while Russell finished the day in sixth despite starting P18.

But their tally of 20 points was the third highest with McLaren continuing their run of excellent form with another podium and a P5 for Oscar Piastri.

Despite this, Wolff insisted that Mercedes had the second quickest car behind Red Bull.

“I think we had the second quickest car,” he told a rather shocked Ted Kravitz on Sky Sports F1. “If you look at the speed profile also where George came from but we just didn’t didn’t monetize on it.

“Having said that, you see what [Max] Verstappen is doing and that needs to be the target and it’s far off at the moment.”

It was an opinion shared by Russell who remarked that Mercedes were “equal second” with their Mclaren rivals.

“McLaren in all honesty [are] maybe one small step ahead,” Russell said. “Probably more so on Lando [Norris]’ side but I’ve been really impressed with Oscar this year. He has had a really tough season as a rookie and is really impressive. He’ll get there I’m sure to make it to Lando’s level at some point.

“They’re going to be a real threat but I think we’ve got enough legs on them so far to hold them off until the rest of the season. I’d say we’re maybe equal second with McLaren.”

As for his race, Russell was disappointed not to make more of it but was happy to extend the gap to Aston Martin in the Constructors’ Championship.

“The car was really quick,” he said. “This is one of my favourite circuits, one of my best circuits and as a team we generally go really well here.

“So it’s no surprise how quick we were today. Obviously it’s disappointing because I believe that we could have been right up there with Lewis yesterday and as a team, if you’ve got two cars on the front two rows, the dynamic changes totally.

“A small opportunity that was missed, but nevertheless, we made points on P2 in the championship.”