Budapest - Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff has admitted that
his "half-time" champions are struggling for supremacy and expects
this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix to deliver another closely-fought three-way
fight for glory.
Just days after seeing Lewis Hamilton claim one of the
greatest wins of his career with an epic rain-soaked triumph in Germany, Wolff
conceded that "in the cold light of day, we know and recognise that we
didn't bring the quickest car to Hockenheim."
And, as a result, he said: "We all know that no prizes
are given out for half-time champions, so will keep pushing to improve our
After 11 of this year's 21 races, Hamilton and Mercedes sit
atop the drivers and constructors championships, but only by a narrow margin,
and Wolff knows that it will require another special effort in the expected
sweltering heat of the Hungaroring for his team to head off for their European
summer holidays as leaders.
"Hungary will be another tough fight with both Ferrari
and Red Bull," he said.
"It's a high down-force track and on paper they should
both be very fast. However, if there's one thing the German Grand Prix taught
us, it's that predictions don't determine results."
After struggling for power at recent circuits, the
Hungaroring's layout and characteristics make Red Bull strong contenders for
success because their car has the chassis handling that will enable them to
compete at the front.
Daniel Ricciardo won the Monaco Grand Prix this year and has
shown on the tight and technical circuits that he has the ability to deliver
results, albeit with his team-mate Max Verstappen also representing a serious
threat. He won in Hungary in 2014.
The Australian is expected to have his future with Red Bull
resolved this weekend and another win, his third of the season, would be a
timely confirmation of his and the team's potential.
It would also not be an entirely unwelcome result for
Hamilton or Mercedes if it deprives rivals Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari of
points in the 'fight for five' titles that has dominated the season to date.
For Ferrari, the race will be overshadowed by the death of
former chairman Sergio Marchionne this week as they attempt to bounce back from
Vettel's crashing, and pointless, exit in the rain last weekend.
Vettel's misfortune allowed Hamilton to turn an eight-point
deficit into a 17-points lead with his epic win from 14th on the grid.
But, he knows too, that despite having won a record five
times in Hungary, this weekend's contest will not be straightforward.
"It's not usually our strongest track, but it's not a
power circuit so hopefully this extra chunk of power that Ferrari have doesn't
serve them as well there and maybe we can have a decent fight.
"They have always been really good on tyres it's a hot
track so, undoubtedly, they'll continue to be fast, but I've still got high
Ricciardo will go into the weekend well prepared, after
taking engine penalties at Hockenheim for strategic reasons, but concerned
about the power failure that forced him to retire.
World championship standings ahead of Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix:
1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) 188 pts, 2. Sebastian Vettel (GER) 171, 3. Kimi Rikknen (FIN) 131, 4. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) 122, 5. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) 106, 6. Max Verstappen (NED) 105, 7. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) 52, 8. Fernando Alonso (ESP) 40, 9. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) 39, 10. Sergio Perez (MEX) 30, 11. Esteban Ocon (FRA) 29, 12. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) 28, 13. Romain Grosjean (FRA) 20, 14. Pierre Gasly (FRA) 18, 15. Charles Leclerc (MON) 13, 16. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) 8, 17. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) 5, 18. Lance Stroll (CAN) 4, 19. Brendon Hartley (NZL) 2
1. Mercedes 310 pts, 2. Ferrari 302, 3. Red Bull 211, 4. Renault 80, 5. Force India 59, 6. Haas 59, 7. McLaren-Renault 48, 8. Toro Rosso-Honda 20, 9. Sauber 18, 10. Williams 4