Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the considerable pace deficit his team has suffered to Ferrari of “up to several tenths” means it must apply pressure to force mistakes from its Formula 1 world title rivals.

Wolff has dismissed the current F1 world championship standings, which show Mercedes has enjoyed an almost perfect start to 2019 with consecutive 1-2 finishes at the opening two rounds, and concedes Ferrari holds the fastest package on the grid this year.

While the Mercedes team principal has urged his team to continue its own developments, he also wants his team to keep the pressure on Ferrari to force mistakes.

Sebastian Vettel spun while battling Lewis Hamilton for position during the Bahrain Grand Prix before Charles Leclerc suffered a dropped cylinder to see him fall behind both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at the chequered flag.

“Two races into the 2019 season, it may seem like we’re in a strong position,” Wolff said. “We have 87 points, just one below the maximum score. But the constructors’ standings do not tell the full story.

“The truth is that we weren’t as quick as our direct competitors throughout qualifying and the race in Bahrain. The Ferrari was considerably faster on the straights and this added up to several tenths around one lap.

“Nevertheless, the saying goes that ‘in order to finish first, first you have to finish’ and the combination of solid performances from the team, reliability of our systems and a strong drive from our drivers secured us the one-two.

“The challenge we are facing doesn’t daunt us – it’s uplifting. We will keep pushing to extract the maximum performance from our package to deliver the best race we can. We will try and exert pressure, maximise our opportunities and keep working hard to develop our overall package.”

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Wolff is also keen for Mercedes to play its part in F1’s celebration of its 1000th World Championship race at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“The 2019 Chinese Grand Prix will also mark the 1000th Formula 1 World Championship race. 1000 races over almost 70 years is testament to the fantastic tradition and heritage of this sport,” he said. “We’re proud to represent one of the world's biggest brands in the series and we will do our very best to put on a good show on this historic occasion.”



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