Mercedes boss Toto Wolff sees the performances of Ferrari and Red Bull as a “wake-up call” for his team after Sebastian Vettel took the lead in the drivers’ championship.
Montreal has traditionally been a strong circuit for Mercedes as it has been able to make use of its power unit advantage to comfortably win in the last three years. Lewis Hamilton was victorious on each occasion, but without a power unit upgrade this year the team was less competitive and Hamilton could only finish fifth behind Vettel, teammate Valtteri Bottas and both Red Bulls.
“There’s not really a pattern that you can see,” Wolff said. “Normally, on some tracks, we were dominant and then others we struggled. Then somehow this year, the margins have become so tight. Bradley (Lord, the team’s head of communications) has just shown me the fastest lap of the race — there’s five cars within a tenth.
“This is why this year’s world championship will be decided by the team who makes the least mistakes, brings the best development on the engine every single weekend. That is the new reality. It’s a three-way fight. Six cars can win races. You can’t take anything for granted and think it will be a walk in the park. Then that’s the kind of wake-up call you get.”
Wolff admits he was expecting Mercedes to be the team to beat in Canada despite Ferrari showing further progress with its power unit this season.
“We were coming to Montreal expecting our car to be really strong and we’re leaving Montreal seeing we haven’t been where we thought we should be and that is why what I said before. There is not the historic pattern of cars strong on certain circuits and weak on others.
“I still think we’re not pretty good in Monaco and Singapore. They are the outliers, but you have to expect everyone to be strong everywhere.”
With the Mercedes power unit upgrade delayed due to what the team described as a quality issue, Wolff says he is not concerned about mistakes creeping in but more about the overall level of his car’s performance.
“I think you need to get the right balance between pushing development very hard, adding performance to the car and at the same time keeping reliability. This team has been extremely strong in the past, keeping the reliability at a high level.
“That is not the part that worries me. It is more that we have seen a Ferrari that has been the stronger car, stronger in qualifying, stronger in the race, and at no time did we have a real chance to fight for the win.”