Mercedes: What’s gone wrong at the F1 and can they recover?
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Toto Wolff has admitted Max Verstappen is in a “class of his own” ahead of the Italian Grand Prix in words which will no doubt hurt Lewis Hamilton. Verstappen is seeking to secure a fifth successive race victory this weekend for the first time in his career.
The Dutchman has already picked up 10 victories from 15 wins races as he closes in on his second world title. Speaking to Sky Sports, Wolff said: “Verstappen is really now in a class of his own.”
The Mercedes boss also appeared to write off any chance for the Silver Arrows to challenge for victory this weekend. The German manufacturer struggled at the Belgian Grand Prix last month, another low downforce circuit.
Mercedes have also failed to win the Italian Grand Prix at Monza since 2018. George Russell was only two-tenths slower than the Ferrari pair in FP1 yesterday.
But the pace was lost in the afternoon with Russell seven-tenths off the best lap of Carlos Sainz. Hamilton also struggled with his best lap eight-tenths slower than the Spaniard.
Wolff explained: “We did well in the first practice and then suddenly the balance of the car was completely lost. We had to deal with overheating tyres and the performance just stopped coming.
“The concept of the car is too far away from this [type of circuit]. We are not efficient.” Verstappen struggled in FP1 but was back to his best hours later, going just one-tenth off Sainz but crucially ahead of title rival Charles Leclerc.
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The reigning champion now has a 109 point advantage heading into the Italian Grand Prix. It means he can afford to retire from the next four races and still be ahead in the standings.
Verstappen can secure the world title as early as the Singapore Grand Prix if Sergio Perez and Leclerc drop enough points at the next two events. But, it is looking likely he could wrap up his second crown at the Japanese Grand Prix, still four races before the end of the season.
Russell has also raised concerns for Mercedes this weekend as he revealed the team were being blown away by the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull. He commented: “We started off quite well, but Ferrari and Red Bull have taken a step forwards – or maybe we’ve taken a step back.
“We were obviously behind a McLaren in P2 so a bit of work is needed to understand that.”
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