RACE DEBRIEF

    As Red Bull ready for Honda’s departure and ramp up their preparations to run their own in-house engine project, they have recently lured six Mercedes High Performance Powertrains staff to join the new project – but their efforts haven’t stopped there, according to Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff.

    Last month, Red Bull revealed Mercedes HPP’s Head of Mechanical Engineering Ben Hodgkinson would become Red Bull Powertrains’ new Technical Director, and ahead of the Spanish GP Red Bull followed that up by announcing five more ex-Mercedes recruits.

    READ MORE: How the intense Mercedes vs Red Bull battle is heating up – on and off the track

    Wolff, when asked whether doubling salaries at Mercedes could ward Red Bull’s advances off – something Red Bull's Dr Helmut Marko reportedly said the Silver Arrows were resorting to – explained that Red Bull had approached far more than just those six Mercedes’ personnel, however.

    The Mercedes chief said: “I think they have, in all, approached 100 people or so and they got 15, maybe, and doubling the salaries is one thing but if you triple them, at some stage you’re not going to be able to compete anymore, even for loyal people. It is what it is. I respect everybody that wants to defend or build his business and retaliation time has not yet come,” he said.

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    Red Bull are preparing to take over Honda's engine IP as the Japanese manufacturers bow out at the end of this season

    Asked in Spain whether Red Bull’s efforts to employ Mercedes staff frustrated him, Wolff replied: “No, I think it’s pretty obvious [that] if you want to set up an engine factory in the UK, there is only one and that’s us.

    “We have 900 or so employees there and if you’re fishing out 15 of these or so, it’s really normal. But they went mainly after manufacturing staff, so I guess it’s not performance; they want to build up the company.

    READ MORE: Wolff – Mercedes won’t play 'musical chairs' with Bottas and Russell in 2021

    “But credit to the project, it’s a Mount Everest to climb and I’d like to have a fight with Red Bull power units,” he concluded.

    In Spain, Mercedes ended Friday top of the charts as Red Bull seemed to falter, but Wolff remained wary of his rivals and said that their renewed competitiveness has stoked the motivation of Mercedes’ employees.

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    Top of the charts in Spain as per Friday, Mercedes lead the championship by 18 points over Red Bull going into Round 4

    “I think it was our best Friday so far [in 2021], so pretty encouraging and we just discussed on the pit wall so we have 24 hours to really screw it up,” he joked.

    READ MORE: ‘Amazing’ McLaren and Ferrari progress puts pressure on us and Red Bull, says Hamilton

    “It’s quite an interesting phenomenon we’ve spotted… we have so much fun like we haven’t had for many years," he added. "It reminds me of 2013, we were just an inch behind, and now it’s coming back to work all happy and all cheery and we’re just hunting.”

    Mercedes have won four of the last five Spanish Grands Prix and taken pole in every one of those as they hope to extend their incredible streak this weekend.