Nico Rosberg dominated the season opener in Australia at the wheel of the Mercedes W05, crossing the line 24 seconds clear of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo (who was later excluded due to exceeding the maximum fuel flow limit).
The German’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton had taken pole position on Saturday but retired from the race on lap three with a misfiring engine cylinder. Wolff insists the team does not have a big advantage over the rest of the field, but says the gap must be maintained and extended if the Brackley-based outfit wants to achieve its goals by the end of the season.
“Yes, absolutely,” replied the Austrian when asked whether failing to win both championships would be considered a failure. “I don’t see that we have a big advantage, to be honest, because you can see if you have a DNF then you lose points, and McLaren are leading the constructors’ championship. Yes, we have a little bit of a margin and losing that would be something I’d consider as a failure.”
Wolff added that the team’s advantage isn’t a comfortable one and says the pace of Red Bull Racing and Williams surprised the paddock. “We have a margin performance-wise, but it’s not an awful lot,” he said.
“If you look at where Red Bull have come from after very little mileage in testing, that is quite a wake-up call for everybody. Look at where they were two or three weeks ago in Bahrain, so we need to be very careful, and we haven’t seen Sebastian [Vettel] running with a reliable, fast car.
“You would expect him, with his experience, to go even faster so we have to keep on pushing. At Williams, if you look at Valtteri’s [Bottas] pace before he hit the wall, and again afterwards, then I’m quite sure they would have ended up on the podium. So I don’t think you can ever lean back and say ‘this is a comfortable buffer’.”
Image courtesy of Octane Photographic