Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is cautious of reading into how close his team got to the nearest challenger Ferrari in Hungary. Sebastian Vettel held on to lead home a one-two having been under pressure from Lewis Hamilton, despite the Italian squad looking overriding earlier in the weekend.
But the Wolff says the championship was slowed down significantly by his damaged car, and believes there is quicker to come from the four-time world champion when the season resumes in Belgium at the end of August.
“I don’t think we have seen their pace because Sebastian’s car was clearly damaged with the steering wheel hanging to the left and you can see that after Sebastian pitted when Kimi was in free air, he was setting very fast sector times,” he said.
“If they would have left [Vettel] out [Raikkonen] probably would have overtaken. Equally, although [Red Bull’s Max] Verstappen was on a newer tyre he was catching up a lot and somebody told me that [McLaren’s Fernando] Alonso was doing the quickest lap time of the race so I don’t think we have seen the real Ferrari pace, it was a damaged car.”
Vettel is delighted by Ferrari’s evolution this season, with four wins from 11 races in 2017 after 20 races without a victory in 2016. Ferrari has mainly succeeded, under the 2017 technical regulations, on tight and tricky circuits like the Hungaroring, although Mercedes may reclaim the initiative on high-speed circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
“It’s a fact to say in the last couple of years we didn’t have the best car and a fact to say in the last few years we weren’t the strongest at developing the car, but I think if you look at the progression this year it is a different story and we keep progressing,” Vettel said.
“We brought a lot of bits, we have seen a lot of bits from other people copying us, but that’s a good sign and a testimony to the hard and good work and the achievement that has gone into this car and this project. We will keep pushing flat out.”