Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted that he was taken aback by the audacity of Red Bull’s one-stop strategy that helped Max Verstappen to clinch a dominant victory at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday. The Dutchman set a new record for the highest number of victories in a single F1 season by taking the chequered flag ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez, with the other Mercedes of George Russell coming home in fourth.
The Silver Arrows opted for a long first stint on the medium tyres in a differing strategy to that of Red Bull, who chose to start Verstappen and Perez on the red-walled softs. Mercedes were clearly hoping that Red Bull’s approach would see them follow a two-stop strategy, which ultimately failed to materialise due to the better-than-expected longevity of the medium tyres on their second stints.
“We didn’t think the medium would go anywhere near the end,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1 when quizzed on his thoughts after the end of the race in Mexico City. “We are totally surprised with the way Perez hammered the tyres and it still hung on.
“We just got it wrong. We discussed whether the soft-to-hard was a viable one-stop strategy and soft-to-medium was never on the radar.”
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It remains to be seen whether Mercedes, who are still awaiting their first Grand Prix victory of the year, will be able to beat Ferrari to clinch second place in the Constructors’ Championship standings before the campaign draws to a close. They currently sit 40 points adrift of their Italian rivals and will be desperate to finish with a flourish in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, with just two races left on the calendar until the end of the season.
“We need to be careful to jump to quick assumptions,” added Wolff. “They [Ferrari] were clearly not fast this weekend, but it was also on our simulations our best weekend, so let’s see what happens in Brazil.”
“Finishing second would be great for all our people and a win would be fantastic, to demonstrate that the car was fast.”
Mercedes have struggled to keep up with the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari all season, but it seems as though the tide has finally turned based on their impressive pace in Mexico over the course of the weekend. The new front wing that was introduced for the event appeared to work wonders in practice and qualifying at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, although the twists and turns of Brazil and Abu Dhabi will ask some very different questions of the Silver Arrows as they look to avoid finishing the year without a single Grand Prix victory.
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