Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport boss Toto Wolff has said that it’s “very difficult” to predict the outcome of the Belgian Grand Prix, as Formula 1 returns from its much needed summer break.
After Lewis Hamilton‘s surprise double victory at the Hockenheimring and Hungaroring last month, Mercedes lead Scuderia Ferrari by ten points in the Constructors’ Championship. Hamilton’s successes have allowed him to stretch his gap to Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ standings to 24 points with nine races remaining.
Wolff appreciated the timing of the break, coming at a point in the year where Mercedes started to gather momentum, continuing to explain that it allowed the Mercedes team to recharge and reassess the situation after a frantic and closely-fought first half to the 2018 season.
“After five races in six weeks before the summer break, the shutdown came at just the right time,” he said. “It gave us the opportunity to recharge a little and return energised for what will certainly be a hard-fought second half.
“Both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championship are extremely tight and I expect it to be a close battle all the way through to Abu Dhabi.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Wolff expressed his excitement about returning to the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps; a venue that Mercedes hope to secure a fourth consecutive win at.
“Our first stop after the summer break is Spa – an historic circuit that has been the venue of some of the most spectacular races in F1 history,” Wolff added.
“Corners like Eau Rouge are known to race fans around the world and the race always attracts a huge and very enthusiastic crowd.”
The Austrian continued to talk about the difficulties of car setup for the track layout, equipped with long straights and plenty of medium to high-speed corners.
“From a team’s perspective, the circuit is quite tricky, as it is not easy to find the right set-up for a track that has long straights, considerable changes in elevation and high-speed corners.
“You want to have enough downforce to be quick through the corners, but at the same time not carry too much drag for the long straights.”
Because of this, Wolff said that making predictions for the weekend is challenging, noting that being the fastest car on a certain circuit is not totally applicable anymore – case in point being Hungary, where Ferrari were expected to dominate.
“It’s very difficult to make any predictions for Spa,” he said.
“If this season has taught us one thing, it’s that there are no clear favourites for specific tracks anymore and that it’s not always the fastest car that wins.
“Instead, the competitive balance seems to swing back and forth from circuit to circuit. What is clear is that our competitors are pushing extremely hard and put up a very tough fight. So we need to keep our heads down, work hard to eliminate our weaknesses and further build on our strengths, and take the season race by race.
“2018 promises to be a season that we will still be talking about in years to come and we can’t wait to get out there and start racing again.”
Mercedes have five victories to their name this season, compared to Ferrari’s four and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s three.