Wolff enjoying ‘a buzz I have not felt since 2013’ after Mercedes defeat Red Bull in Portugal
Mercedes looked very much like the Silver Arrows of old at the Portuguese Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton driving a commanding race to win out from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. And Team Principal Toto Wolff said that Mercedes’ recovery from being on the ropes at pre-season testing was giving him, and the rest of the team, a “buzz” that they hadn’t felt since 2013…
Hamilton’s 97th victory required two expertly judged passes from the seven-time champion, the first on Verstappen, after Hamilton had himself been passed by the Dutchman at the Safety Car restart on Lap 7, while the second was on team mate Valtteri Bottas for the lead on Lap 20 – Hamilton then with enough pace in hand to take his second win of the season from Verstappen and Bottas, who was bogged down by a sensor issue in the final part of the race.
“An absolutely stunning drive from Lewis,” said Wolff afterwards. “It seemed under control all through the race. You could see, and hear in his voice, how much he was pushing. An incredible drive. Valtteri had some real pace at the beginning and you could see that it was difficult for Lewis to catch up, it was real speed. But then eventually Lewis managed to get past and off he went.
“The exhaust sensor issue was unfortunate for Valtteri later in the race because he really caught up well to Max and then [the gap] kind of stabilised at 1.5, 1.6 seconds,” added Wolff.
“But he had more to come at the end of the race. We couldn’t override the faulty sensor so the engine went into protection mode and that cost him five seconds. Valtteri probably would have had a shot on Max at the end if we were not to let him down on the power unit. I think we need to give him credit.”
After three races in 2021, Hamilton now has two victories to Verstappen’s one, while Mercedes also have two poles to Red Bull’s one – with the gap between constructors’ leaders Mercedes to Red Bull now standing at 18 points, while Hamilton’s lead over Verstappen stands at eight points.
And Wolff said that Mercedes’ ability to take poles and wins in the face of seemingly stronger opposition was reminding him of 2013, the year that saw Mercedes emerge as a potential threat to the dominance of teams such as Ferrari and, of course, Red Bull.
“When we were behind in testing and in Bahrain, it's a buzz that I have not felt in the team since 2013 when we had that first sniff that we could be there,” said Wolff. “The whole place is excited and continues to be excited. I'd like to be happy after Abu Dhabi at the end of the season but for the time being, we'll take it one step at a time.”