Formula One: Mercedes will rise to the challenge: Wolff

Mercedes' executive director Toto Wolff at the 2017 Mercedes Formula One Car Launch on Feb 23, 2017.
Mercedes' executive director Toto Wolff at the 2017 Mercedes Formula One Car Launch on Feb 23, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Formula One's new rules are "just what the doctor ordered", even if rival teams have become more competitive, according to Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.

The Austrian said in a preview for Sunday's season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne that Mercedes, the dominant team of the past three years, face a big challenge in races where there will be faster cars on bigger tyres.

"We have been very successful over the last three years through stable rules - but no team has ever maintained its success over such a big regulation change before," said Wolff.

"In a way, it's just what the doctor ordered. To have such a challenge is good for the team.

"We have done the best job we possibly could over the winter and, if we are not the fastest in Melbourne, then it's about finding out why and what needs to be done to get us back to that top spot."

  • 86.5%

  • Mercedes have won 51 of 59 races since the 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid units were introduced.

Ferrari emerged from pre-season testing with the quickest times, although the Mercedes pairing of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas did the most laps with impressive reliability.

Bottas, previously with Williams, has replaced retired 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton, winner of 53 grands prix over his career to date, starts the season as championship favourite and likely opening race winner.

Bookmakers William Hill have the Briton at 10/11 for Melbourne, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel second favourite at 7/2 and Bottas at 6/1.

"We believe that it is going to be another Mercedes procession but the Australian Grand Prix is often unpredictable," said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

Wolff added that testing in Barcelona had indicated "that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk", although there was no way of knowing for sure, with teams using testing to experiment with fuel loads and power unit settings.

Mercedes have won 51 of 59 grands prix since the 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid units were introduced. The team also started all but one of last season's races on pole position.

Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams to have beaten them since 2013.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2017, with the headline 'Mercedes will rise to the challenge: Wolff'. Print Edition | Subscribe