Toto Wolff says Red Bull Racing appear to have the advantage over his Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team at this point of the season, so it was encouraging that Lewis Hamilton was able to deny Max Verstappen victory in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
Verstappen took pole position and led the early laps, only to fall behind Hamilton during the pit stop windows as Mercedes pitted Hamilton before the Dutchman and gave him fresh tyre advantage. Try as he might, Verstappen was unable to find a way ahead of the reigning World Champion.
Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz and the Team Principal of their Formula 1 team, says Mercedes are working hard in a bid to close the gap on Red Bull, and he hopes there are more close battles between the two teams throughout 2021.
“The 2021 F1 season certainly began in spectacular style,” said Wolff. “It was an encouraging first race, coming away from Bahrain with a double podium, and hopefully the duel in the desert between us and Red Bull is a sign of what’s to come this year.
“We may have won the first round, but we’re under no illusions that this will be a straightforward season. The car is still lacking pace over a single lap and Red Bull appear to have the edge right now. We’re pushing hard to close the gap, and this is a challenge we relish.”
Heading into this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, Wolff says everyone at Mercedes have been eager to get back out on track to see if they’ve made any gains with the W12 since Bahrain.
“We’ve been eager to get back on track over this three-week break and round two, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is just around the corner,” said Wolff. “Imola is such an historic and iconic venue, and it’s a track the drivers really enjoy, with its sweeping nature, high speeds and variety of corner types.
“It’s quite a narrow track, which makes overtaking more difficult, but this puts more focus on strategy and makes qualifying even more crucial. We all enjoyed returning to Imola in 2020, after a 14-year gap, and it was made more special by the fact we secured our seventh Constructors’ championship on that weekend.
“We’re looking forward to being back there again this weekend and seeing what the 2021 race has in store!”