Wolff: Margins at front of field have 'shrunk'
20 March 2017 – Toto Wolff reckons Mercedes will face a stiffer challenger in 2017, predicting that the margins at the front of the field have "shrunk" amid major regulation changes.
F1 cars will be significantly faster this season, through revised aerodynamics and much wider Pirelli tyres, with lap times during testing already around three seconds up on 2016.
Wolff is confident that Mercedes, the champion team for the past three seasons, has reacted well to the new rules, and internal changes, but is taking nothing for granted.
"There is an art to managing expectations," said Wolff.
"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 1 can be, with Brawn winning the championship after being on the brink of extinction.
"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."
Ferrari's Kimi Räikkönen posted the overall best time during the pre-season, almost seven tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas on the same tyre compound (Super Soft).
Although keen to note that fuel loads and car settings may have been vastly different, amid talk that Mercedes ran its power unit below optimum, Wolff feels that the field is closer.
"What we've seen from Barcelona is that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk," added Wolff.
"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."