Prior to Melbourne, where Mercedes’ new car proved to be the fastest in the field, boss Wolff had claimed Ferrari and Red Bull would be tough challengers.
“I always said that Ferrari, Red Bull and us are in a tight group. Even tighter than last year,” he said in Bahrain.
Wolff was speaking just after qualifying, where the Ferraris qualified 1 and 2 while Lewis Hamilton, with a grid penalty, will start the race from just ninth.
Wolff said Mercedes cannot even make the excuse that its car is – like last year’s – a bit of a “diva”.
“The drivers feel comfortable in the car,” he said. “We were just not fast enough.”
Hamilton agreed: “The Ferraris were faster than us on all tyre types in the long runs on Friday. They just have the better car here.”
He also said the ‘party mode’ argument is now dead, insisting that Ferrari is “equal to us” in terms of engine power.
But Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is not so sure.
“I was surprised. I thought the Mercedes would be faster in qualifying,” he said.
“It seems that this weekend they’re not up to their usual standard,” Ricciardo added. “Maybe they’ve decided not to use the usual qualifying mode to divert attention from this topic,” Ricciardo smiled.