Toto Wolff has said that Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s previous achievements bare little relevance to this point in the 2018 Formula 1 season and acknowledged that Scuderia Ferrari‘s title challenge in 2017 reminded the team they could not afford to relax.
Wolff also said that he expects Aston Martin Red Bull Racing to provide a sustained challenge to both Mercedes and Ferrari, despite Red Bull team principal Christian Horner playing down the team’s chances of a fifth constructors’ title.
Mercedes enter the 2018 season as the bookmakers’ favourites, having won the last four drivers’ and constructors’ crowns, but the Austrian said that the team will only find out how competitive their package is when the Australian Grand Prix weekend is in full swing.
“We’re excited to go racing again,” Wolff said.
“Everything we’ve done over the past months were just the first steps on the road to start our 2018 campaign – from the first build of the car to the first fire-up, from the launch in Silverstone to testing in Barcelona. Now, it’s time to find out what we’ve got: like the old saying goes, when the flag drops, the bullsh*t stops.
“Last year, the competition was very close and there was no moment where we could afford to relax. Ferrari put up a very tough fight and we had a proper battle between silver and red.
“This year promises to bring an exciting three-way fight between us, Ferrari and Red Bull. Everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has worked extremely hard over the past months to make sure we enter that fight with the best machine possible.”
Wolff noted that both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are satisfied with their early experiences in the W09 EQ Power+, both at the Silverstone International Circuit and Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and is buoyant about the team’s reliability – particularly crucial given the new, highly-opposed three-engine rule introduced in order to emphasise power unit efficiency and durability.
“Both our drivers seem reasonably happy with our new car,” the 46-year-old added.
“But it remains yet to be seen how well it performs when driven in anger. The reduction in the number of power unit components means that reliability will again play an important role in 2018. Our reliability in testing looked good but we need to be careful to draw any conclusions from that – despite getting some good mileage with the new car in Barcelona, many of its components have not even come close to the life they need to complete during the season.”
Wolff warned against complacency, saying that the previous achievement “don’t win today’s games”, and that everyone starts on zero points at the opening round of the championship. Mercedes have won nearly 80% of the 79 races in the V6 turbo hybrid era, but the competition has come closer by the season.
“We will tackle this new season with the same dedication, team spirit and energy that has made us strong in the past.
“Each of us has the mindset that last year’s Championships belong in the past; yesterday’s trophies don’t win today’s games. A new season feels like climbing Mount Everest – we’ve done it successfully in the past, but we’re only in the base camp at the moment. It will be a tough journey, with the same target, but different challenges to master along the way. Right now, we start this long season on zero points like every one of our rivals.
“And we have to give it everything to be successful again this year.”