Ferrari’s recent improvements mean Mercedes must “extract absolutely everything” out of its car’s performance if it wants to win the Japanese Grand Prix, according to Toto Wolff.
Mercedes finished first and second in Russia, with Lewis Hamilton leading home Valtteri Bottas after Sebastian Vettel’s retirement cost Charles Leclerc the lead. That ended a run of three straight victories for Ferrari since the summer break, and Wolff says the gains that the Scuderia has made do not leave any margin for error for his team, despite its commanding lead in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships.
“Claiming a 1-2 in Sochi after three races without a win was a great feeling,” Wolff said. “We delivered a strong race in Russia, made the most of our opportunities and both Lewis and Valtteri drove flawlessly. We brought home 44 points, built the gap in both championships and are highly motivated to keep our foot on the throttle for the remaining five races.
“However, the win in Sochi doesn’t change the fact that Ferrari had a stronger start to the second part of the season than we did. We’ll bring some minor upgrades to the car in Japan which will hopefully help us take a step in the right direction; however, we know that we need to extract absolutely everything from our car and the tires if we want to be able to challenge for a win.”
Wolff had already confirmed that there would be limited new parts introduced at Suzuka having not upgraded the car significantly since the mid-season shutdown, but he’s still wary that Ferrari could end Mercedes’ dominance at the circuit.
“The next race takes us to the iconic Suzuka Circuit with its exhilarating corner sequences and highly enthusiastic fans. We have a strong track record there, having won every Japanese Grand Prix in the hybrid era, but we expect this year to be challenging given the strength of our opponents. It will be a very close battle on track — and one that we very much look forward to. Our targets for the final quarter of the season is clear and it’s up to us to make sure we achieve them.”