Ahead of the Spanish GP, Toto Wolff is playing down Mercedes chances of running away with the 2016 F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles. “We’re going to see some big upgrades from the different teams and power unit suppliers over the next few races, so now is the time we can truly assess the pecking order,” said the Mercedes boss. “Barcelona will be an interesting weekend from that perspective, so we must be prepared.”
Those looking for hope of a Ferrari revival will note that this time last year, Ferrari were already 100 points behind Mercedes but after four races in 2016 the scores are just 157 – 76 in the constructors’ table.
Despite Wolff’s comments on upgrades coming, the reality on the power unit front is that only Renault have a significant amount of tokens left to spend over and above those of Mercedes AMG F1.
Tokens remaining after winter PU development
- Ferrari 9
- Mercedes 13
- Honda 14
- Renault 25
Speaking at the Camp Beckenbauer leaders in sport conference last October in Austria, Toto Wolff believed it would take some time for Renault to get up to speed on their power unit. “There is one thing in F1 that money cannot buy, which is time. So you have to manage expectations and set the right targets. But have no doubt; give it two years and Renault and Honda are going to be competitive again.”
(BTW – at that same conference Bernie Ecclestone also stated that F1 would be sold by the end of 2015).
Further, Renault power unit upgrades are expected not in Barcelona but in Canada and Honda are way off the pace.
This leaves Ferrari as the team who may make Barcelona an ‘interesting weekend’. However, the fact is at times the red team have again been a second off the pace of Mercedes during the F1 weekends in 2016 thus far. Add to this the fact that Mercedes know the Catalan circuit intimately after pounding in GP distance after GP distance around the Catalan circuit during testing. The Brackley team covered the equivalent of 10 GP’s in just the last four days of testing alone.
Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne has ramped the pressure up on the red team too, when during the presentation of the new Alfa Romeo Giulia in Balocco he stated: “I expect us to win shortly, starting with Spain.”
Then again if Joe Saward is to be believed, Marchionne is about to sack Maurizio Arrivabene as the team boss of Ferrari Gestione Sportiva and replace him with James Allison. If true, this places Sergio’s ‘expectations’ in slightly a different light.
The reality is whatever Wolff and Marchionne say, William Hill has Mercedes at 1/50 to win the F1 constructors’ title this season with Ferrari at 12/1 and Vettel at 18/1.
Toto Wolff has over the past two years garnished some respect and gravitas since his rather less than savvy F1 media début, but comments like this are transparent in their intentions and given the agreed 2017 rules are a mere ‘compromise’ – whatever Toto says we can expect Mercedes to be ‘at it’ again next year too.