Toto Wolff casts Red Bull ‘benchmark’ verdict after Mercedes ‘big step’ claim

Henry Valantine
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, pictured at Imola.

After Mercedes appeared a “big step” closer to the pace in Monaco, Toto Wolff acknowledged Red Bull are “still the benchmark” in Formula 1 at the moment.

Charles Leclerc took his first home victory for Ferrari over the weekend while Mercedes’ George Russell held off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen behind, with Lewis Hamilton in tow as the two Silver Arrows drivers finished P5 and P7 respectively.

Toto Wolff: Mercedes improved in Monaco but Red Bull ‘still the benchmark’

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Hamilton in particular looked strong for Mercedes in free practice, topping one session and running close behind Leclerc in the other two as he appeared confident in the early running, saying after FP2 that their Friday in Monaco had been the “best day we’ve had” in 2024 so far.

The fine margins in qualifying saw the drivers qualify, race and finish in fifth and seventh, and team principal Wolff told Austrian media he felt the team had made a “big step” closer to the pace at Monaco – with Hamilton having taken pole position at the Hungaroring last year, a circuit with similar high-downforce requirements.

But even in race trim, Wolff believed Mercedes could have fought at the front of the field throughout – despite others managing their pace at a circuit on which it is notoriously difficult to overtake.

“We were on the pace today. Not just with the slow train, but overall we would have been fast,” Wolff said in Monaco, as quoted by Austrian publication OE24.

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But when asked if there had been a potential trend reversal and Mercedes are closer to the front, he added: “It’s difficult to say.

“McLaren has made a really good step forwards, Ferrari has continued to improve and Red Bull has probably fallen back a little. Overall, they are still the benchmark.”

Wolff’s opposite number, Red Bull’s Christian Horner, believes it is only a matter of time before other teams catch up to them, though, after two years of dominance at the front of the field and Formula 1’s technical regulations staying stable.

“Well, it’s inevitable,” he told media including in Monaco.

“I mean, we’re in year three of these regulations, and it’s inevitable that you’re going to get convergence. It’s amazing that we’ve managed to stay ahead for so long.

“But as the cars converge in look and shape and therefore lap time, it’s inevitable that there’s going to be strong competition.”

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