After his third consecutive win yesterday at the Red Bull Ring, Max Verstappen is leading the Championship by 32 points.
The other title contender, Lewis Hamilton, was running in second place until the left-rear of his W12 got damaged on a kerb. This caused a massive loss of downforce that Mercedes tried to mitigate with a balance change during the second pit stop, but to no avail as he finished P4 behind Lando Norris and his teammate Valtteri Bottas.
“We calculated that we lost about 30 points, but that is a number that’s not checked yet. But there was quite a loss in performance. And that meant he was pushing the tyres in a direction that wouldn't have made it to the end, probably,” explained Toto Wolff after the race in a session with written media including MotorLat.
“So we wanted to evaluate what his performance really was after the damage and whether it was possible that Valtteri could have protected against Lando. But that wasn't possible. And then it was also fair towards Valtteri to do his own race. And this is when we decided to switch, obviously, understanding that we would lose P3 to McLaren.”
Despite finishing with one car out of the podium, after taking P2 and P3 at the Styrian GP last weekend, Wolff said the performance of the car was “much better than last Sunday”.
And reflecting on how things could have gone down yesterday, he commented: “I think it was a good result because I think if we wouldn't have been stuck behind the McLaren at the beginning where we lost chunks of time, we would have been racing him [Verstappen]. And I'm not sure that it would have been enough to win the race. But the race pace was there and it would have been good.”
Nevertheless the team has been struggling for a while now and is finding it challenging to keep up with Red Bull.
“This is clear in Austria or in the last few races, we didn't have the performance that we must have in order to fight Red Bull. And we are very aware of that. And we need to just get our act together overall in every single area and hopefully perform better on the other tracks,” Wolff added.
“You need to function when things are going bad. And after seven consecutive championships, we are in a situation that we are fighting a tough battle at the moment against all odds as it stands.”
But the Team Principal is convinced Mercedes has the right mindset to jump back up and close the gap from Red Bull.
“We never resign from any battle. It's the last thing we do,” he said. “I'm always a skeptical person, half empty glass. But in that case, I'm seeing the positives and the positives are there are still 13 or 14 races to go. We are one DNF away from Red Bull, no more.”