Mercedes is still lacking “a lot of laptime” that it needs to regularly challenge Red Bull and Ferrari for Formula 1 wins, insists team boss Toto Wolff.
The Brackley-based outfit secured its best result of the season at the French Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton finished second, and was joined on the podium by team-mate George Russell after his late pass on Sergio Perez.
Hamilton crossed the finish line just 10 seconds behind race winner and championship leader Max Verstappen, but while his pace was relative to the Red Bull driver, Mercedes still believes it faces a performance deficit.
Wolff felt that following Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc retirement, Verstappen focused on saving his tyres and could control the gap to Hamilton without too much pressure.
Asked if Mercedes remained around half a second adrift of the top teams despite its double podium, Wolff said, as quoted by Motorsport.com: “I think he [Hamilton] was able to stabilise the gap at five or six seconds in the first stint, but you need to be honest and say when they were racing each other in the second stint, probably Max was just keeping it on the track.
“So in my half empty glass perspective, there is still a lot of laptime to catch up.”
Mercedes had widely been tipped to be in the hunt for victory at Paul Ricard due to the circuit’s smooth nature, but it found itself further off the pace than expected.
Wolff believed it was important that Mercedes found answers as to why it was not as strong as anticipated.
“I think with every lap, we collect more data and understand a little bit, so we’re putting the little pieces of the puzzle together,” he said. “It’s a process that’s sometimes difficult.”
While France gave Mercedes its highest finish of the year so far, Wolff was clear that the team is being held back by the W13’s deficit over a single lap.
“It’s simply not one thing: we’re lacking performance on a single lap and we are lacking performance at the initial stages of the stint,” Wolff said.
“There is something to understand and it’s not a silver bullet but it’s a few topics that they roll in to our performance. Second and third is a good result but we work tirelessly to win and there is still a gap.”