Toto Wolff has tried to deflect pressure from his Mercedes drivers by declaring Max Verstappen as favourite for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Verstappen won last weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone from P4 on the grid, producing impressive race pace in his Red Bull, initially on hard tyres, and utilising a favourable strategy to beat Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Although the World Champions were the class of the field by some distance in qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya for round six of the 2020 season, with Hamilton on pole position and Bottas second, Mercedes team principal Wolff fears a repeat of seven days earlier.
Wolff based his opinion on Verstappen’s long-run pace during Friday practice, with conditions set to be even hotter in Barcelona and equally demanding on tyres.
The bookmakers do not agree, making Hamilton the odds-on favourite to win for a fourth time this season, with Verstappen ahead of Bottas in the betting. Thus the conclusion has to be that the Austrian is attempting to divert the attention on to Red Bull.
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“The only similarity between Silverstone and Barcelona this week is the ambient and the track temperatures,” said Wolff, quoted by Autosport.
“The track itself is very different, so we don’t expect the same blistering issue like at Silverstone, but nevertheless [there will be] more degradation and more overheating.
“I believe Red Bull masters those conditions very well. Nevertheless, I think the work that has been done during the week and from yesterday to today was good.
“We have improved and that is most important. I hope we can give him a run for his money.
“Definitely Max needs to be seen as the favourite, based on yesterday’s long runs.”
Wolff said Mercedes had no concerns about using the soft tyres in the race, believing that qualifying on mediums would not have offered a great benefit.
“In the end, nobody opted to start on the mediums because the soft looks like a pretty good tyre,” said Wolff.
“It doesn’t bring a lot of advantage to not start on the soft unless you are out of the top 10.”
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