Toto Wolff has admitted that Mercedes’ rivals have stepped up their game after drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg conceded defeat to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia last week.
Mercedes arrived in 2015 as the clear title favourites and their 35 seconds victory margin at the season-opener in Australia did little to deter from that assumption. However, a combination of factors at the following race in Malaysia turned the tables against the Brackley based team, forcing them to react to stay at the top.
Aware of the ‘season-long battle’ Mercedes faces from rivals, particularly Ferrari, Wolff feels the team needs to improve their own pace in a bid to retain their title.
“We left Malaysia with plenty to think about. It may have been a good result for the sport – but for us, it was a wake-up call. This is something you cannot afford to happen often and, although we had two cars on the podium, we have been looking very carefully at every area where we could have performed better,” Wolff was quoted in Mercedes’ Chinese GP preview release.
“Our opposition has raised its game and we must now raise ours even further; as we have said since Melbourne, we expect a season-long battle for both World Championships and we must maximise every opportunity. China is the next chance to do that – a circuit which has been a good hunting ground for the team.”
Mercedes’ executive director(technical) Paddy Lowe added the front-limited Shanghai Circuit will play to his team’s strengths.
“China presents a different challenge. Temperatures can vary dramatically year-on-year, but are generally quite low. It’s also a front-limited circuit – the opposite of Sepang – with a good mix of corners and a long straight, so it will be interesting to see how the different cars perform at yet another circuit characteristic for this new season,’’ said Lowe.
The team is also bringing an aerodynamic update at this race that will help them to stay ahead of its rivals.
“It is now clearer than ever that there is serious competition for this World Championship, so we will continue to work flat out for performance gains. We have a range of new aerodynamic developments for Shanghai and are targeting an improved performance from Malaysia,’’ Lowe added.