Toto Wolff said the “pendulum” of this year’s title race is in the hands of Max Verstappen, and things are now easier for the Red Bull driver after winning the World Championship with a “crowbar” in 2021.
But the Mercedes team principal added that the fact he currently has the fastest car in the Formula 1 field is also helping his cause, as the reigning champion has won every race in which he has finished so far this year.
Verstappen was criticised by Mercedes towards the end of the year for his aggressive racing style against Lewis Hamilton during their title fight, with the Dutchman eventually winning the World Championship in controversial circumstances in Abu Dhabi.
Wolff said Verstappen had the slower car in the final part of the 2021 season, but the path has now smoothed considering the pace within the RB18 this year.
“Last year Max drove a worse car with a crowbar and won the title,” He said in an interview with OE24 in Austria.
🗣 "I’m looking forward to driving in Barcelona again. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going from the last few races with a clean start from Friday onwards."#SpanishGP 🇪🇸 | @Max33Verstappen pic.twitter.com/QgEg0qX5fy
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) May 18, 2022
“Now he has the fastest car, so everything is easier for him, the pendulum is swinging in his favour.”
As for Wolff and Mercedes though, they are not on the level of Red Bull or Ferrari yet this season, with their issues surrounding porpoising causing significant problems in the W13 – leading the team boss to dub the Silver Arrows “specialists in bouncing” after the race weekend in Miami last time out.
But despite their deficit and others writing off their hopes of retaining the Constructors’ title, he was not willing to concede that Mercedes are out of the fight just yet.
“No, not at all,” he stated. “We’re only in the fifth race, so you can’t write anything off, it can swing back in our direction. And in terms of points we are not yet dramatically behind.”
Most of the grid are likely to be bringing significant upgrades with them to Barcelona at the weekend, with Mercedes likely to be no exception on that front.
Given the speed they showed in pre-season testing, the team principal hopes to see a significant step forward – but isn’t expecting to be at the head of the field just yet.
“Barcelona will be interesting for us because we tested there in February with a fast car. We want to continue there now,” Wolff said.
“This could be a mini milestone in that direction. But we have to remain realistic: We are still only third behind Red Bull and Ferrari.”