16 March 2016
F1 Australian GP: Wolff: Having enemies pumps you up for battle
Toto Wolff says he would welcome a challenge from Ferrari - or any other F1 rival - this season, if only to keep his Mercedes team pushing its own boundaries.
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff is looking forward to the start of another long F1 campaign, regardless of whether his team proves to be all-conquering.
Mercedes has won 32 of the past 38 grands prix, taking with it a brace of both drivers' and constructors' titles in 2014-15, and looks set to start 2016 as the team to beat, based on a strong testing performance in Barcelona and the apparent inability of its rivals to produce cars to rival the recent offerings from Brackley.
Based on pre-season, and Sebastian Vettel's three wins last term, Ferrari poses the biggest threat to the Silver Arrows, and Wolff admits that he would welcome the challenge, if only to keep his team motivated and striving to further improve itself.
" We are racers and we love a challenge," he insisted, "Having an enemy pumps you up for a battle - and having strong competitors motivates us to push even harder.
"Motivation is crucial to performance and you need to set ambitious targets to keep that drive high. These change from year to year. When I first arrived, it was becoming a front-running team. Then, it was winning the title. Then, proving to ourselves that it wasn't a one-off. And now, it's creating sustainable success - building the team and the organisation as a whole.
"We're realistic with ourselves. We know we won't win every race and every championship, but we want to be up there fighting for it every year and putting on a great show, so that's the target.
"We expect the competition to be tougher than ever this year. Expectations are high, both internally and externally, but Ferrari look confident and there will likely be other teams involved in the battle. Testing is about clocking mileage and understanding the car, so there is no clear order at this point but, if it were to be this way, that's something we would enjoy."
Despite building on back-to-back title-winning machines, Mercedes continues to look for new ways to baffle the opposition, and 2016 will be no different, with Wolff admitting that evolution has been blended with a side of revolution in the W07.
"Under stable regulations, you are not looking to re-invent the wheel and you cannot expect huge development jumps, but looking for small, carefully evaluated steps forward in every area is equally challenging," he noted, "There is always room for progress and we have found some interesting developments. It gives me great pride to see how the team continues to innovate in exciting ways. This is not a sport where you can relax. The minute you start being complacent you lose out, so you have to keep the energy in the system and we are doing this all the time."
Wolff also admitted that it would interesting to see how his two drivers - already infamous for their distrust of each other - would react should the likes of Vettel and Ferrari prove to be a viable championship threat, but insisted that Mercedes would not change its policy on allowing them to race each other as well as the field.
"They are major competition for each other in the same car, which is not always going to be easy to handle, but, with others also in the mix, it will be interesting to see how the dynamic evolves," the Austrian acknowledged, "We've shown in the past two seasons that there are no team orders - and this does not change.
"F1 is a sport - but it is also entertainment. Controversy, both on and off track, makes headlines. That's not a bad thing - it's part of the world we live in. But we can think about that later. For now, I can't wait for the flag to drop in Melbourne: let battle commence..."
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