Toto Wolff: Mercedes can ‘fight back stronger’ after ‘tricky’ pre-season testing

Philip Duncan, PA F1 Correspondent
·2-min read

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is confident his all-conquering team are ready to strike back on the eve of the new Formula One season.

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes head into the new campaign in Bahrain on Sunday on the back foot following a shaky three days of testing earlier this month.

The Silver Arrows ran into reliability trouble, while their new car looked difficult to handle. Indeed, Hamilton, who is bidding to win an unprecedented eighth world crown this year, spun on a number of occasions.

In contrast, Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team appear in encouraging shape as they bid to end Mercedes’ remarkable run of seven consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles.

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Wolff said: “This team’s biggest strengths are our people and our values, and after a tough test, I know that we can fight back stronger.

“It was a tricky three days. The W12 wasn’t as stable, predictable or planted as some of our rivals. Red Bull looked strong on both the long and the short runs, but as always with testing, it’s difficult to be certain of true performance.

“The only thing we know for sure is that we must prove our ability to react. From the moment the third day of testing finished, we got our heads down and started to figure out how we can return to Bahrain in stronger form in just a few days’ time.

“As we have found before, it’s from the difficult moments that we learn the most.”

Mercedes won 13 of the 17 grands prix last year as Hamilton clinched his seventh title with three rounds to spare.

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But, such was the form shown by Red Bull in the sole three days of running in Bahrain earlier this month, some have suggested that they will start the season as favourites.

However, 23-year-old Verstappen, who won two times last year, said: “For sure the test was a positive start for us and you can always be happy when you get that number of laps in and get a good understanding of the car, but it doesn’t say anything about pure performance.

“I know people are excited and think we are just saying this, but Mercedes are still the favourites – how can they not be when they have won seven world championships in a row?

“I’m sure Mercedes also want people to think we are the favourites and put the pressure on us but we are just focused on ourselves.”