‘Max’s win has made title fight interesting’

Date published: August 11 2020

Lewis Hamilton Max Verstappen

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes has a title fight on its hands after Max Verstappen moved up to second with his 70th Anniversary GP win.

Mercedes began this year’s championship in flying form with Valtteri Bottas claiming the first victory at the Austrian GP and Lewis Hamilton winning the next three.

Such was his win at the British GP, which handed him a 30-point lead in the standings, that the reigning World Champion lamented the lack of a fight.

“This is not how I imagined the fight for the championship to go,” Hamilton is quoted by Sky Sports.

“This is not how I want to win the title, I would much rather have a very good fight with Max and Charles, that is what makes me happy. I’m a racer through and through, that’s what I get out of my bed for every morning.”

“I think it would be great if everything would be closer together in the future,” added the 35-year-old.

One week later he got his wish.

Bottas began the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix from pole position with Hamilton second on the grid, however, an alternate strategy for Verstappen, who started on the hard tyres, gave the Red Bull driver the gap he needed to win the race.

Verstappen took the chequered flag 11 seconds ahead of Hamilton and moved up to second in the Drivers’ Championship.

He is, however, still 30 points behind the Brit with Bottas a further four off the pace.

Wolff, though, reckons this is just the beginning of the Red Bull challenge.

“I think we have,” he told Autosport when asked if Mercedes was now in 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.

“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.”

The Mercedes motorsport boss insists all it will take is one DNF and the entire picture at the top of the standings could swing in one driver or another’s favour.

“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.”

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