Toto Wolff delivers warning to Max Verstappen after Canadian Grand Prix podium

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen shake hands after the race. Canada June 2023

Third placed Lewis Hamilton and race winner Max Verstappen shake hands after the race. Canada June 2023

Less than 15s behind Max Verstappen at the chequered flag in Canada, Toto Wolff has warned Red Bull that Mercedes are getting “much closer” with every race.

Over 50s down on the reigning World Champion at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Mercedes threw the dice when they put a B-spec car on the grid at the Monaco Grand Prix.

One race later they recorded their first double podium of the season with Lewis Hamilton second in Spain and George Russell P3. That Sunday, Hamilton was 24s down on Verstappen at the chequered flag with Wolff celebrating a “huge step forward”.

It, however, was one that was downplayed by Red Bull with Christian Horner adamant his team’s rivals weren’t any closer than they were in Bahrain, it was just the order that was “changing”.

That, though, couldn’t be said again after Canada with second-placed Fernando Alonso and P3’s Hamilton both within 15s of race winner Verstappen, the closest any non-Red Bull cars have come to the race winner all season – excluding Australia.

The race marked Mercedes’ second successive race on the podium with Wolff calling it “encouraging” after Hamilton took the fight to Alonso in the battle for second.

But it was Hamilton’s 14.1s gap to Verstappen that had Wolff smiling.

“We knew that Canada was going to be one of the more difficult circuits for us, so to come away with a podium is a solid result,” said the team boss.

“We were also not too far away from Max much closer than we would have expected at the beginning of the season.

“The margin is still large, so we have lots more work to do. We are on a positive trajectory though and the update package clearly works well.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by the team’s trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin who reckons podium fights will be part of Mercedes’ plans for the rest of this season.

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“We knew this track would be more difficult for us than Barcelona,” he said, “so it’s encouraging to see that we were very close on pace to Aston Martin and Ferrari.

“Lewis did a great job to get on the podium. We didn’t quite have the pace we needed to get second but when we look at the tracks that lie ahead of us, we should have a car that can regularly fight for the top-three.

“We’ve clearly got a bit of pace to find before we’ll be worrying Max, but the team is working well to bring performance and very motivated to close that gap.”

As for Hamilton, he too concedes there is still a “lot of work to do” in improving the W14 with the Briton citing the need to “increase the load on the rear of the car and improve in terms of efficiency.

“But we are working and I think that sooner or later we will succeed. Max was a bit out of shape. But I think that today our pace was a little bit closer. So, we’re heading in the right direction.”

Fourth in the Drivers’ standings, Hamilton trails second-placed Sergio Perez by 24 points while Russell is sixth, 37 points behind his team-mate.