Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is keeping his feet on the ground despite the Silver Arrows winning the inaugural race of the 2021 Formula 1 season in Bahrain last weekend. Lewis Hamilton took the checkered flag by a mere 0.745 seconds from Red Bull's Max Verstappen. The result could have been different if the Dutchman's overtaking maneuver on Hamilton had not exceeded track limits.
Toto Wolff claimed that the Brit's win in Bahrain was an "unbelievable" result for Mercedes, but remains aware that his team could be out-qualified by Red Bull in the second race of the season at Imola.
Mercedes are still lacking pace: Toto Wolff
For the first time in the turbo-hybrid era, Mercedes face a serious challenge from another team. With the Honda engine being leaps and bounds better than its previous iteration, Mercedes are not the favorites for the championship.
Toto Wolff has admitted that Mercedes lack the pace to match Red Bull over one lap in qualifying. This was clear when Verstappen took pole by four-tenths from Hamilton. Speaking to formula1.com, Wolff said:
"We recovered well from the [pre-season] test. Still, to give you 100% honesty we are still lacking pace in qualifying and quite a bit."
“Yes, we were four tenths off in qualifying and that's quite a gap and very difficult to recover. We knew that they have a good race car, whether it is enough to reduce that gap wasn't very clear."
The Mercedes team principal also admitted that beating Red Bull at Imola would be an extremely difficult challenge. His fears come from seeing Red Bull's performance in Bahrain, a track they have historically struggled at.
“Bahrain was always not the strongest race for Red Bull, and also they haven't been particularly good out of the blocks, and this weekend shows that all that is not the case anymore in 2021."
However, Mercedes have now proved that they can win a race despite not having the fastest car at their disposal. A combination of a Lewis Hamilton masterclass and pragmatic strategic decisions handed the Brackley-based team the victory in Bahrain. Can Mercedes continue their race form at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix? Or will Red Bull get their first win of the 2021 Formula 1 season?