Toto Wolff says he doesn’t take it for granted that Mercedes will be the team to beat in 2017, and stresses that the competition is much stiffer this season after rule changes have given rivals an opportunity to make progress.
The Austrian said that of others are faster at the first race, his team would have to dig deeper.
“There is an art to managing expectations,” he said. “You must not set them too low, but you must also keep them under control. With new regulations, everyone starts with zero points. It provides opportunities as well as risks for every team on the grid. You only need to look back to 2009 to see how unpredictable Formula One can be, with Brawn winning the Championship after being on the brink of extinction.
“We enter 2017 with that mindset. We take every one of our rivals seriously and respect every team’s ability to find that magic bullet. They are all full of very clever people; the best in the world in their fields.
“We have done the best job we possibly could over the winter and, if we are not the fastest in Melbourne, then it’s about finding out why, and what needs to be done to get us back to that top spot. It’s a challenge we will take on with great motivation and energy. Setbacks can provide a long-term opportunity because you constantly need to improve yourself.”
Wolff admitted that the true picture after testing is not yet clear.
“What we’ve seen from Barcelona is that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk. We’ll see how that pans out in Melbourne, because we still don’t know about the fuel loads, weights or power settings of the other cars. As the old saying goes, it is when the flag drops that the bullshit really stops.”
Regarding the relationship between his drivers he said: “Lewis and Valtteri are in a great place. They have a respectful and friendly relationship from what we’ve seen in our team briefings so far.”