Toto Wolff believes the Australian Grand Prix has shown Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull will all win races and be in the fight for the championship in 2018.
Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole position lap in Melbourne increased fears that Mercedes has a clear pace advantage over the rest of the field, but Ferrari remained in touch during the race and Sebastian Vettel took advantage of a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period to take victory last Sunday. With Daniel Ricciardo securing the fastest lap of the race, Wolff says the signs are promising for a competitive season between the top three.
“Yeah, I’m quite pleased,” Wolff said. “Whatever is said nobody believes that there are other teams still inescapable of winning races and fighting for the championship. We saw a sensational purple time of Daniel at the end when he was trying to overtake Kimi [Raikkonen] and Ferrari won it fair and square in so far that I think we are up for a season where we could see different winners.”
Praising Hamilton’s performance for the advantage Mercedes enjoyed over one lap during qualifying, Wolff also says the race pace of the midfield cars will have an impact on the battle at the front this year.
“We didn’t change any modes from his first lap to the second one [in qualifying]. It was just an unbelievable lap. If you look at the onboard you just want to shut your eyes because it’s so fast. He just got it all together and it was his lap and this made the margin.
“In terms of the pattern, I think it will also depend on the circuit. On less power-sensitive circuits the Red Bull might be a little bit closer, but again I expect these three teams to be able to win races over the championship.
“And you could also see behind that the group of McLaren, Renault and Haas are right up there for Max [Verstappen] and for Valtteri [Bottas] it was not possible to overtake these cars.”
Verstappen finished sixth in Melbourne, having been stuck behind Fernando Alonso after the VSC, while Bottas was in that same group of cars but came home in eighth place behind Nico Hulkenberg.