Toto Wolff still does not necessarily see Lewis Hamilton as favourite to clinch a record-breaking eighth World Championship at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
That is despite the Briton having won three consecutive races to draw level on points with Max Verstappen, having had the faster race pace in all of them.
Instead, the Mercedes team principal remains concerned that Red Bull may provide Verstappen with the quicker package for Yas Marina.
That was the case in Abu Dhabi last year, when the Dutchman won comfortably, although Mercedes had both titles wrapped up at the time and Hamilton was returning the weekend after having to miss the Sakhir Grand Prix when suffering from COVID-19.
The two Drivers’ Championship protagonists are facing a winner-takes-all decider – whichever of them finishes ahead of the other takes the title. But if neither scores points, Verstappen becomes champion on countback of nine race wins to Hamilton’s eight.
Hamilton won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a prolonged duel in which Verstappen ended up being penalised three times – two separate time penalties of five and 10 seconds issued during and after the race respectively, plus a two-place ‘grid drop’ for the second restart.
Morning Team. You’re still thinking about last night aren’t you… 😍🖤 pic.twitter.com/XED5ajiKS6
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) December 6, 2021
Although Hamilton was faster in the race, Verstappen had been on course to take pole position by a comfortable margin until he hit the wall in the last corner of qualifying.
Asked by Sky Italia who he thinks will come out on top in Abu Dhabi, Wolff said: “I don’t know, because we arrived here (Saudi Arabia) thinking this track suited our car better. Instead, we saw in qualifying they were half a second faster.
“In the race our car was faster than theirs, we have to understand why.
“For Abu Dhabi, it’s the same thing. I don’t know if we will be fast or not. It’s important we are equal with the points – we didn’t think we could be in this situation.”
Considering Mercedes have trailed Red Bull for most of the season, Wolff admits it is beyond his expectations that they are now within sight of retaining both of their titles.
“This morning when I woke up I thought we can all be happy to see such a championship,” said the Austrian.
“I don’t remember in 10 years such an intense and great championship. I hope to win but we are already beyond my expectations.”
Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla
Who is favourite for Abu Dhabi?
Toto Wolff says he doesn't know who will be favourites for the Abu Dhabi GP.