Although Mercedes won the F1 season opener in Bahrain, the pace shown by Red Bull throughout the weekend points to the RB16B being the quickest car on the grid right now.
But rather than Mercedes being downbeat about the task it now faces to close the gap to Red Bull, Wolff says the German manufacturer was actually revelling in the circumstances.
“In a way there is a feeling within the team that we very much enjoy the new circumstances,” Wolff told Autosport. “And it’s that, on paper, Red Bull is ahead with maybe all of their package.
“It’s theirs to lose, ours to win, because when you have the quickest car, you have got to deliver on that.
“We have to catch up. We have to deploy our A-game and find more performance. But strictly speaking, we are second best on the road.”
Wolff said Mercedes did not find it hard to deal with being behind its main rival on pace terms. In fact, he felt that it had served to bring a new energy and focus to everyone at Brackley and Brixworth.
“The fun factor of us being in the hunt is very enjoyable, because it is a new situation, and we embrace this opportunity,” he said.
“That hasn’t been the case since 2013. And I loved 2013. I’ve said it in the team that I feel like the same pump as when I first joined. And it was Red Bull domination then: they were just going to win the fourth championship.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
‘Talking shit’ clarification
Wolff recently caused a stir when comments attributed to him appeared to attack fellow F1 team bosses Zak Brown and Christian Horner.
In an interview with Austrian newspaper Osterreich, that was widely translated into English, Wolff was asked what he felt about comments from Brown who suggested that Mercedes would have an all-new driver line-up in 2022.
Wolff was quoted as saying: “Brown is like Christian Horner. They just spread shit. I don’t care.”
That interpretation of what he said was viewed by some as being a blatant attack on his fellow team bosses.
However, Wolff has clarified that his comments did not come across accurately, and what he actually said was something totally different.
“I have respect for both of them,” he said. “That was totally misquoted, and I think it got literally lost in translation.
“I said, ‘they give each other shit a lot’, and the way it was quoted is ‘they talk shit’, which is not quite the same.
“Zak is a big part of the Mercedes family and a friend. With all the banter that we have between us, it’s not something that I would accuse him of.”
Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG and Zak Brown, McLaren Executive Director
Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images
Wolff said that team bosses having banter between them was a vital element that attracted interest in F1, as it showed the competitive battle between squads was real.
“It’s very important because, what it comes down to, is rivalry,” he added. “We are operating in the same circus, and it needs to provide entertainment for our fans and audiences.
“But there is also rivalry. Sometimes that can escalate into animosity, and that’s part of the sport. But we mustn’t forget: it’s just a sport.”