Since the start of Formula One’s hybrid era at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix, the team to beat has undoubtedly been the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team.
Between that race and the start of the 2017 season, Mercedes have claimed victory in all but eight of the 59 races that have taken place, and won all three constructor’s and driver’s championships convincingly.
Mercedes quite rightly entered this season as title favourites once again but a resurgent Scuderia Ferrari has left many questioning Mercedes’ ‘invincibility’, not least, team boss Toto Wolff who believes Mercedes are now the firm underdogs.
Speaking to f1i.com, Wolff said:
“Yes, we are the underdog. And yes, we need to catch up. That is the reality at this very moment.”
But what is to blame for Mercedes’ off-colour performances so far this season? Wolff believes it’s the pesky, but necessary, Pirelli rubber; “It all revolves around bringing the tyres into the right window,” he explained. “We have a fast car, but it doesn’t like the tyres.
“Ferrari is able to bring the car to the track and it goes well from the beginning to the end, with both drivers. That has been different for us so far.
“We are dropping in and out of the tyre window, never getting cars within that window over a race weekend.
“We have seen an exceptional performance from Valtteri in Sochi,” he pointed out. “But we weren’t able to replicate that on Lewis’s car. And we have seen an exceptional performance from Lewis in Barcelona – but not on Valtteri’s car.
“It’s been going on like that the whole season so far.”
Ever the optimist however, Wolff is confident his team and drivers will improve as the year goes on and take the fight to Ferrari.
“I have confidence that with more data and more mileage we will finally understand,” he predicted.
“I cannot say if we will have more difficult weekends ahead, but the fact is the more the season advances the better it is getting for us.”
As for that underdog tag, Wolff doesn’t seem to mind it…
“I like the notion of underdog – people always feel for the underdog!”