Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted that, for the first time in the turbo hybrid era, his team were “lacking the pace” to fight for a race win.
This, combined with his admission that the team have moved their focus fully onto their 2022 car with no further planned upgrades – despite Lewis Hamilton’s plea to find more speed in the car – could raise doubts about how regularly they will be able to challenge Red Bull moving forward.
Max Verstappen comfortably took his third victory in four races in Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix and, along with Sergio Perez’s win in Baku, takes Mercedes to a four-race winless run for the first time since the turbo hybrid regulations were introduced in 2014.
Hamilton had been on Verstappen’s tail for most of the first stint around the Red Bull Ring, but the World Championship leader was able to slowly edge away from Hamilton’s advances, and had opened up a 17-second gap by the time the Briton pitted before the end of the race to earn the fastest lap point on Sunday.
While the Mercedes team principal said the Silver Arrows will be fighting at every opportunity until the end of the season, he acknowledged that they had no answer for Red Bull’s speed.
“It’s not a bad result indeed, but what’s tough is that it’s been the first race, really, in eight years where you’re just lacking the pace,” Wolff admitted to Sky Sports F1 after the race.
“You see that we have stopped developing for this year because we believe that the next years are so important to get it right. And [Red Bull] keep adding bits with aero parts, and all credit to their strategy.
“You feel like their eking away at their new power unit has been consolidating their performance. So we’ve just got to put our heads up together and do the best out of the package that we have. This is far from over.
“We are totally fired up. This is not a fait accomplit, we were lacking pace today. It was the Sunday of the first Austrian race, there’s 15 to go and we will be doing the best we can.
“We will be winning races, we will be on pole positions and we will be fighting back.
“Reliability is a key point, but today we just didn’t really have the tools to win. Max was always able to add one more and that… is complicated to digest.
Last four race wins:
Monaco: Red Bull
Baku: Red Bull
France: Red Bull
Styria: Red Bull
— Planet F1 (@Planet_F1) June 27, 2021
He continued: “It’s certainly very tough because of this strategic situation that we have a completely new car this year, with a different fuel, a different engine which will be homologated and frozen, and the car is basically like you are going to a totally different concept.
“You need to balance these two seasons against each other and time will say, when you look back in five or ten years, if it was the right or the wrong decision.
“But in any case, this fight is not over.”
Reflecting on Sunday’s result as a whole, Mercedes were able to take 34 points out of the weekend – but still added three points to their gap behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship.
But with next week’s Austrian Grand Prix taking place at the same track, Wolff hopes the team will be able to learn from their first outing at the Red Bull Ring and improve next time.
He added: “The next day looks like scratching our heads, taking a look at the race and see if there was anything we could have done better in terms of set-up direction.
“It’s very interesting, I’m really looking forward to analyse and see if, in a week’s time, we can do a better job.”