After three years of unbroken supremacy, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Monday that he relishes the idea that his champions are now underdogs in this year’s Formula One title battle.
But his team are not likely to follow Ferrari’s example and use team orders to favour one driver in the world championship.
Following Ferrari’s one-two triumph in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix where Sebastian Vettel’s notched up victory ahead of grim-faced team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, the scarlet scuderia are on top in both the drivers and constructors championships.
“We were well beaten and so I think we are the underdog and we need to catch up,” said Wolff as the tifosi celebrated with enthusiasm all around the Mediterranen principality. “This is the new reality.”
It was a landmark win for Ferrari, their first in Monaco since 2001 and a first 1-2 since 2010.
But it was shrouded in controversy.
It was clearly apparent that four-time champion Vettel was favoured by Ferrari for victory over his Finnish team-mate, who had taken pole position and led the race comfortably from the start before being called in for an untimely early pit-stop that gave Vettel the initiative.
That was certainly the view of most observers including Mercedes’ title challenger three-time champion Briton Lewis Hamilton who, like Wolff, does not welcome the prospect of adopting a similar favouritism strategy at Mercedes.
“I haven’t spoken to the team, and I don’t really plan to,” said Hamilton, who finished seventh while team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas was fourth.
“Valtteri’s doing a great job. I don’t currently feel that we have to favour one over the other.
“It’s really important that we work as a team, more than anything, as we have been. There might be some things along the way positioning wise which, at some stage, become valuable, but – who knows? — it might go the other way and I might need to give Valtteri the upper hand.
“I really have no idea. We’ve just got to make sure we’re ahead of them so we don’t need to be in the same scenario.”