Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is feeling “privileged” with his team very much still in title contention heading to Sao Paulo.
Despite locking out the front row at the Mexican Grand Prix, Mercedes were very much second best to Red Bull come Sunday, with Max Verstappen taking the lead into Turn 1 and controlling proceedings from there.
Lewis Hamilton was able to ward off the charge of Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to secure P2, whereas pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas managed only P15 after being spun around by Daniel Ricciardo on the opening lap.
Bottas at least denied Verstappen the fastest lap of the race, which meant Mercedes take a one-point lead over Red Bull in the Constructors’ into the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Hamilton has 19 points to make up on Verstappen at the head of the Drivers’ Championship.
But to still be contenders with four rounds to go is a privilege in itself, according to Wolff.
“The best thing about a triple-header is you don’t have to wait long for a new opportunity to get the positive momentum back,” he said.
“We are excited to be returning to Brazil, the fans are so passionate and Interlagos is such an iconic circuit.
“It’s not been our strongest track in recent seasons and has tended to suit Red Bull more, but this year has proved anything can happen. It’s the last sprint race weekend too, which opens up more opportunity.
“We’ll be throwing everything we’ve got at the Brazilian Grand Prix and the races beyond. We are privileged to still be in the fight so late in the season and expect these titles to go right down to the wire, with both teams fighting hard to the very last lap.
“We’ve got some catching up to do and know it will be an intense battle, but we will continue to push hard and keep our eyes firmly set on the end goal.”
Looking back to Mexico, a race where Wolff accepted Red Bull were in a league of their own, the Austrian still maintains victory was always out of their grasp.
But with Hamilton’s P2 in a car which looked good enough only for third, Wolff was pleased with the damage-limitation effort.
“Reflecting on the last race in Mexico, it was definitely a weekend of damage limitation for us,” Wolff explained.
“Given the track characteristics, we knew it would be a challenging weekend for us and that proved to be the case on Sunday.
“The win was never in our grasp, but Lewis gave all he had to hang on to that second place in a car that should probably have finished third. It was a strong defensive drive from him, securing valuable points for both Championships.”
As for Bottas, Wolff is confident the Finn’s disappointing Mexican Grand Prix will only make him more determined to shine at Interlagos.
“For Valtteri, his pole lap on Saturday was spectacular, which made Sunday’s result all the more painful after he was hit at Turn 1,” Wolff admitted.
“That meant it was a very difficult afternoon for him, but we know that will only make him more determined to come back fighting next time out.”
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