Toto Wolff believes the updated Mercedes looked like a championship-winning car during the Spanish Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton was involved in contact with Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap in Barcelona and limped back to the pits with a puncture, leaving him a long way adrift at the back of the field. While the driver suggested saving mileage on the power unit from that position, Mercedes was confident in its race pace and told Hamilton a top eight result was possible, which he duly delivered with an impressive recovery back to fifth place, only losing fourth on the penultimate lap due to reliability issues.
“The dynamic between the driver and team is something that is so important,” Wolff said. “And it’s clear – you’re having an accident at the early stage of the race, and you’re saying to yourself, ‘not again’, and you’re not featuring because I think he was 38 seconds or so behind the last cars after his stop. And that’s basically game over.
“But then, him going and showing this very good pace was important. It was not only his morale, but also our morale. And who would have thought he would climb all the way to fourth before the problem came up.
“And that looked like a world championship-winning race car that he was driving, that would have not been possible in the previous races. That reminded me of last year and the years before when a car is really on the top of its game. And the driver.”
Wolff says the improvements also give him confidence that Mercedes can get back in the title fight this season, even if his comments were reflective of how strong the team was in previous years.
“That reminded me of the race cars of previous seasons, where you’re 30-plus seconds behind the whole field, and you come all the way to the front and near the podium. And that is very encouraging and shows that we’ve made another step.
“Can we fight for a world championship? Well, we bet we can. But we just need to have a car that is able to finish first and second. And I think we have reasons to believe that we can get there, but also if you look at the odds they are against us.
“But motor racing is a different ballgame. We’ve seen that Ferrari didn’t score a lot of points although they should. We are absolutely pushing flat out in order to bring us back into the game.”
Another high point of the race was the performance of George Russell, who finished third after a thrilling battle with both Red Bull drivers and a short spell in the lead.
“These regulations have caught us off guard in a way. And step by step we are understanding what we need to do in order to bring the performance back into the car.
“We’ve seen another big step this weekend, probably we have halved the disadvantage to the front-runners. But still there is there is lots of way to go in order to be right up there in the fight.
“But having said that, we’re third with George and that’s strong. His driving was unbelievable, the defending, the positioning. I’m so proud and happy in a way to see that. And a great star or a great driver in the making.”