Toto Wolff has dismissed suggestions that Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have both titles wrapped up after building sizeable leads in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships with five rounds to go.
Hamilton’s fifth win in six races at the Russian Grand Prix gave the Mercedes driver a commanding 50-point lead over Sebastian Vettel in the race for the drivers’ title. Since Singapore, Mercedes has found an impressive turn of pace, particularly in slow-speed corners, while Ferrari has struggled to replicate the performance it showed during the European leg of the season.
Despite Hamilton and Mercedes’ healthy lead in both championships, Wolff is not carried away and cited Hamilton’s 2007 title loss where he had held a 17-point lead over Kimi Raikkonen with two rounds remaining and despite such an advantage, Hamilton lost the title to the Ferrari driver in the season finale in Brazil.
“In 2007, Lewis had the equivalent of 45 points advantage [sic] with two races to go and lost by one points,” Wolff told Sky Sports after Friday practice at Suuzka. “So we are far from having it in the bag.”
Mercedes dominated Friday practice at Suzuka, leading one-twos in both sessions with Ferrari ending the day 0.8s off the pace. Wolff believes the timesheets flatter Mercedes and Ferrari’s performance in the fast corners and lack of pace on the straights — which can be traced in the team’s GPS tracking data — shows Ferrari has turned its engines down and the gap is actually closer than it appears to be.
“Yeah they are turned down a bit,” Wolff replied when asked about Ferrari’s performance in Japan. “We are actually losing a bit through the Esses, the fast corners. I think probably the lap time flatters us a little bit but we’ll see how it is in qualifying tomorrow.
“In the morning they were quicker through almost every corner but they had a softer tyre. When we have both the softer tyre, we are gaining a little bit in a straight line and that makes me really doubt whether they’ve shown the whole performance. Through the Esses they are a bit quicker and the rest is us, so it’s neck and neck even though the lap time seems to show a larger gap.”