Austrian investor and current executive director of Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Toto Wolff is convinced that Scuderia Ferrari did not show its “real pace” at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, despite the fact that the Maranello team managed to out-perform Mercedes and claimed a one-two finish at the Hungaroring track. Having secured a front-row lock-out in qualifying, the Scuderia went on to complete its second one-two finish of the season in Hungary, as championship leader Sebastian Vettel led home teammate Kimi Raikkonen to extend his advantage in the title race to 14 points heading into Formula One’s summer break.
Sebastian Vettel had to contend with steering issues throughout the race and at times appeared to be lacking pace, but held on to take his fourth win of 2017 even though he came under pressure from Kimi Raikkonen, who acted as rear gunner to ensure Ferrari’s result, and the Mercedes duo in the closing stages. A wary Toto Wolff believes Sebastian Vettel’s problems hid Ferrari’s true race pace: “I don’t think we have seen their pace because Sebastian’s car was clearly damaged with the steering wheel hanging to the left and you can see that after Sebastian pitted when Kimi was in free air, he was setting very fast sector times. If they would have left [Vettel] out [Raikkonen] probably would have overtaken. Equally, although Verstappen was on a newer tyre he was catching up a lot and somebody told me that Alonso was doing the quickest lap time of the race so I don’t think we have seen the real Ferrari pace, it was a damaged car.” – Executive Director and the managing partner of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd explained, as reported by the Italian media.
Toto Wolff said he was “not in a happy place” as Mercedes instructed Lewis Hamilton to switch positions with Valtteri Bottas on the final lap, after a tactic agreed earlier in the race to try and challenge the leading Scuderia Ferrari pair proved unsuccessful. He also admitted the call was the team’s most difficult decision in the last five years because of the impact it could have on the title fight. When asked if Mercedes would consider changing its approach to the drivers’ championship after the summer break, Wolff replied: “These values made us win six championships, and is going to make us win more championships in the years to come. It cost us three points and it can potentially cost us the championship. We are perfectly conscious of all of that. This is how the drivers and the team operates. We stick to what we say, and if the consequences are as much as losing the championship, we take it. But long term, we will be winning much more races and much more championship with that approach than doing it the other way around.” – Toto Wolff concluded.