Toto Wolff left Melbourne a proud man as his team achieved a double podium and Esteban Ocon held on to secure his first point in a Formula 1.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team were caught out by the pace of Scuderia Ferrari after Sebastian Vettel managed to keep up with Lewis Hamilton during the Australian Grand Prix and leap-frog the Brit during his pit stop. Hamilton had nothing left in the tank and had to accept second whilst Valtteri Bottas achieved an impressive third place finish at his first race in a Silver Arrow.
“Australia was the first weekend for the new technical regulations, with a new car, new tyres and a new driver,” Wolff said. “We collected lots more information that will be flowing into all future thinking and will help us make better decisions.
“As a group and as individuals, we are all on a personal development slope in this team. We try to improve every single day. On that particular day in Melbourne, Ferrari were better, so we now have to work out how we can improve again to beat them. ”
Despite their impressive start to the season, Mercedes are far from satisfied with the result, especially the circumstances surrounding their demotion from the top step of the podium. The team has spent the past week working on a number of areas identified as needing improvements, as a matter of looking at themselves and what they can do better rather than trying to copy the competition.
“We achieved a double podium in the first race of a brand new set of regulations – a strong result by any standard,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we can be satisfied because there are still many areas where we can be better.
“We have been focused on these during the past week. It’s not a case of looking at the competition for inspiration but of getting our own homework done to maximise our performance.”
In reference to his drivers, Wolff was complementary on Hamilton’s current frame of mind; in his opinion, Hamilton has not been in such a good place in any of the previous four years. And Bottas has seamlessly taken Nico Rosberg’s place on the other side of the garage, and risen to the occasion with an admirable display of professionalism.
“On this subject, I’ve been encouraged by how both of our drivers are approaching this season so far,” he continued. “Lewis is the best Lewis that I’ve seen in the last four years, both on and off track.
“He has become a pillar of this team and he proved that in Melbourne. Valtteri has settled in well and performed at a high level, rising above all the pressure and seamlessly taking over from Nico.”
Ocon is a graduate of the Mercedes junior driver programme who has earned himself a seat at Sahara Force India. The Frenchman finished tenth to secure the final point of the race. Pascal Wehrlein on the other hand concluded during practice that he was still too unfit to race. He has also been ruled out of this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix. Wehrlein now faces a tough battle to regain his fitness in order to retake his seat in the C36-Ferrari, though he has Wolff’s full support.
“Our young drivers have also impressed me in different ways,” he continued. “Seeing Esteban not only fighting with top drivers like Alonso and Hülkenberg but coming out as the winner to take his first F1 point in Melbourne made me proud.
“I feel for Pascal, because he has had all the bad luck. I’m impressed with the maturity he has shown to inform Sauber that he wouldn’t be able to perform at the level required in Melbourne. That took courage and selflessness, which I know earned him a lot of credit within the team.
“Now, he needs to build up his fitness and come back strong. I have no doubt that when he’s back in the car, he’ll prove he’s still the same Pascal.”
Mercedes left Australia with plenty of questions. Now they look ahead to China hoping they have all of the answers.
“Australia was a weekend full of lessons, now we go to China ready and excited for another battle…” he concluded.