Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insists his team still needs to improve in order to secure the drivers’ and constructors’ championships this season.
Lewis Hamilton holds a 62-point advantage over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the drivers’ standings, with Max Verstappen seven points further back, while Mercedes is 150 points clear of Ferrari in the constructors’ race. Despite those buffers, Wolff says the performance shown by Ferrari at a number of venues during the first part of the season act as a warning against complacency.
“The season so far has certainly exceeded our expectations, because we started winter testing with some poor performances and we slowly got to understand the car better and obviously once the real racing started we were right at the very front,” Wolff said.
“But we were not always the quickest car. Ferrari had fantastic performances in Bahrain. The car broke down; Leclerc could’ve won. In Baku they were very fast. And the famous Vettel moment in Montreal, where he could’ve won the race or not.
“So the statistics could’ve looked much worse for us. This is the reason why we are not taking our foot off the pedal. We believe we need to continue to push our performance level in order to win this championship because our competition is not going to rest and watch us run away with it.”
Wolff admits there were some doubts over whether Mercedes had got its 2019 car wrong during pre-season testing, when Ferrari looked particularly strong and the W10 proved troublesome.
“We knew that with the second car, for the second week of testing, would have been completely different with much more downforce. But then we put the car on track and it didn’t perform as we would’ve hoped. I would say that there was skepticism whether we got it right or wrong.
“But the group really continued to assess and develop calmly. There was never any sense of nervousness. In the last two days of the test, finally, we reached the performance level of Ferrari and we felt we were in a position where we were able to fight for race wins. Probably Ferrari would have the edge, but definitely not expecting that it would pan out as it did.”