After four wins in four races this season Mercedes had to make a pass on Sunday. After a blood-curdling race, on the trusted Silverstone for Mercedes header Lewis Hamilton, they had to leave the win to Max Verstappen.
The team boss of the race stable, Toto Wolff, was clear in his comments afterwards. “We were vulnerable. We knew our lead over the competition wasn’t as big as it seemed. That was due to the combination of warmer weather, softer tyres and higher tyre pressure.”
With his victory at Silverstone Verstappen climbed up to second place in the world championship, thirty points behind six-time world champion Hamilton. With seven races to go Wolff thinks there could be an exciting battle.
“I still see Lewis and Max fighting for the title this year. Lewis doesn’t think that’s a problem, he likes to be challenged and would rather win if he had to fight for it. And don’t flat out Valtteri Bottas either.”
In the first race of the year, in Austria, Verstappen soon dropped out. The fact that the Dutchman did not score any points there is for the time being the main reason why he is still so far behind Hamilton.
“Imagine if he’d taken a podium spot then: the hole with Lewis would have been nil”, Wolff said. “We’re not done with Max yet. And actually I’m happy about that because everyone is waiting for battles between top drivers and surprises. Nobody wants boring races.”
Bottas, who started first on Sunday but had to settle for third place on the podium, fiercely criticized his team after the race. According to the Finn, Mercedes was asleep during the race, resulting in strategic mistakes.
“Bottas hates it, I understand that, but we were behind the facts”, Wolff reacted. “I know Valtteri said we had to retaliate with a different strategy. But no, that didn’t make sense. Getting out was just too fast. Whatever we had done in terms of changing tires, Verstappen would have struck back.”
Next week the next race of the season is scheduled in Barcelona. A grand prix with similar conditions as Sunday afternoon and one where Max Verstappen should once again be able to challenge the Mercedessen.
“In that respect, I am looking forward to Spain. I want to know how we can strike back”, Wolff looked ahead. “For we will strike back. I don’t like to lose, but I do like a challenge. That’s good for the sport and for us. We don’t take anything for granted.”
“I always said it wouldn’t be a walk in the park this year. We learned one thing on Sunday: in these circumstances we are not the best. We may have the best car on paper, but not everywhere and not under all circumstances.”