Wolff renews title hopes for Mercedes

After qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, all title hopes seemed lost for Mercedes. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, particularly suffering from chronic porpoise, were unable to fight for victory in the race after never finishing better than third on Sunday. In qualifying, the Silver Arrows put in their best performance in Catalonia, where they had some notable developments, but Russell was still more than six tenths off pole.

On the other hand, the situation changed drastically during the Barcelona race. With a dominating Charles Leclerc retiring at the front of the race, Russell became the new leader, although in the end he couldn’t resist the Red Bulls and finished third.

As for Hamilton, who was the victim of a collision with Kevin Magnussen on the first lap, he immediately found himself 54 seconds behind Leclerc, his deficit reaching 76 seconds when the latter retired (64 seconds behind his teammate, the leader of the new leading trio Russell- Verstappen). -Perez). But excellent pace meant the seven-time world champion was less than 40 seconds behind the Dutchman with five laps to go, also again 20 seconds behind Pérez and 14 seconds behind Russell when he had to brake for an A water leak.

Hamilton was clearly the fastest driver on track, his ten fastest times in the race averaging 1’25″548 versus 1’25″735 for Pérez, 1’26″105 for Verstappen, 1’26″202 at Russell’s Fortune and 1 ’26″238 re Carlo Sainz. This performance gives heart balm to Mercedes, which at the end of this 2022 season begins to dream of a new triumph.

“The car he drove seemed to have the potential to win the world title and that hasn’t been the case in previous races.”says team boss Toto Wolff. “It reminded me of last year and years before, with a car that’s really at its best.”

Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director

When asked if Mercedes now believes they can join Ferrari and Red Bull in the title fight, Wolff replies: “Today I saw a single seater that reminded me of the ones from previous seasons where you’re more than 30 seconds behind the peloton and you climb until you’re close to the podium. That’s very encouraging and it shows that we’ve taken another step forward. Can we fight for the world title? Well, we can bet on that! But we just need a car that can do a double. And we have reason to believe it’s possible.”

“Our chances are slim, but motorsport is difficult to predict. We saw today that Ferrari didn’t score many points when they should have.”

That would require an already sizeable payoff, as Hamilton is sixth in the championship just 64 points behind new leaders Verstappen, while Russell is fourth, 36 lengths adrift. The budget limit and the aero handicap restricting development will not make the task any easier for Mercedes.

“These regulations surprised us in a way, and step by step we understand what we have to do to get the car back up to performance.”comments Wolff. “We’ve seen another big step forward this weekend and probably halved the gap at the top.

“That puts us third [à Barcelone] with George and it’s solid. His driving was incredible – defending, positioning. I’m very proud and happy to see that: he’s a big star or a big driver in the making.”

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Interview by Jonathan Noble

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