Mercedes may have continued its rampage through the 2015 F1 season as the series returned to the Mexico City for the first time since 1992, but team boss Toto Wolff refuses to count its rivals out at this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel appeared the only realistic threat to the Silver Arrows ahead of the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, but the Ferrari driver suffered a rare nightmare weekend that eventually led to retirement after a first lap clash and two subsequent spins. With Nico Rosberg winning the race at the head of a Mercedes 1-2, Vettel's hold on second place in the standings was erased to the tune of 21 points, but Wolff expects the fight to continue to Brazil and, maybe, beyond.
“We have two races remaining to watch an intense and entertaining battle continue,” he noted, “The rivalry like we have between Lewis and Nico is great for the sport, great for the team and great for the drivers themselves. They are pushing each other harder and harder, pushing the team forward with them and providing a fascinating story.
“But, of course, they are never without pressure from rivals further afield. Ferrari had a bad weekend in Mexico, but they will no doubt be a threat in Brazil - as will Williams after another podium finish last time out. This is a race which often brings surprises and never fails to entertain. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what's in store for us at Interlagos.”
Despite building up the opposition, Wolff knows that round 17 was another fine display from his own team – something he'd like to see carry over to Brazil as Mercedes seeks a 15th race win.
“We came away from Mexico with many positives,” he said, “For the sport, we saw a fantastic event which brought F1 back to Mexico in style. On track, our boys delivered strong drives to claim an emphatic one-two for the team and, in the garage and on the pit wall, the crew were faultless - fast pit-stops, a good race strategy and two cars which performed well at a new venue with unique challenges.”
After the redesigned Hermanos Autodromo Rodriguez, Interlagos presents another classic F1 challenge, although technical director Paddy Lowe insists that the Sao Paulo venue no longer presents quite the same engineering headache as it once did.
“Interlagos is another historic circuit with some great features - most notably the long climb through the final corner, across the start-finish straight and back down into the first corner,” he explained, “The weather can be quite unpredictable in Sao Paulo too - often leading to dramatic and spectacular races. The tyres were right on the edge at this circuit last year so, if it does remain dry, this may be another issue to contend with.
“However, while the high-altitude location of the circuit has been a talking point in the past, this is insignificant compared to what we experienced at the last race. Likewise, it will be difficult to match the atmosphere in Mexico City, which was absolutely fantastic. But the Brazilian crowd has traditionally been one of the most enthusiastic of the year, so I'm sure they'll be up for the challenge!”