Given the current level of command being exerted by Verstappen aboard the RB19, Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff reckons the rest of the competition has been left to look like they are driving around in Formula 2 cars.
Discussing Verstappen winning by the biggest margin so far this season, Wolff told Sky Sports: “It is a meritocracy. We are going to fight back and win races and championships but today you’ve seen the pace that Max had, and you saw it already on the long runs on Friday.
“That is where they are. It is like a field of Formula 2 cars against a Formula 1 [car]. They’ve done the best job. Within the regulations, they’ve done the best job.”
Hamilton, who suffered a poorer launch compared to Verstappen, led the Mercedes line-up in fourth. Meanwhile, George Russell classified sixth after qualifying in 18th, which was partly owed to losing out to the experimental Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying format trialled for the first time.
The W14 appeared to swap its usually sound race pace for a stronger one-lap showing. However, a quick final stint from Hamilton enabled him to close to Perez in the dying laps.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Asked where the qualifying pace had gone, Wolff said Hamilton’s Saturday performance was a major factor, but that Mercedes was second only to Red Bull in the race although it had failed to “monetise” that speed.
The Austrian said: “I think clearly yesterday was a mega Lewis lap. We screwed it up with George in qualifying.
“I think we had the second quickest car today, if you look at the lap time profile and also where George came from. But we just didn’t monetise on it.
“But having said that, you see where Verstappen is doing his laps and that needs to be the target and that is far off at the moment.”
Wolff added that Hamilton lost out not only through his poor launch, but from Mercedes having potentially messed up its tyre preparation.
He said: “The start certainly played a role but you know that can happen.
“Maybe we also brought the tyres in very carefully, maybe too carefully, and you can see the lap time difference towards the end.
“I think we reeled in 15 seconds, and we were missing 1.9s or so to Perez and just four seconds to Lando, or less, and I think we had that.”
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