Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists three consecutive one-two finishes for the reigning Formula 1 world champions does not reflect the true picture of the 2019 season.

Lewis Hamilton charged to a convincing second victory of the season by leading home teammate Valtteri Bottas in Shanghai, as Mercedes became the first team since Williams in 1992 to register three straight one-two finishes at the start of a campaign.

But Wolff pointed to Ferrari’s dominant performance in Bahrain - where it would have won had late engine issues not robbed Charles Leclerc - as a reminder of the potential its chief F1 rival has.

“I think although we have scored three one-twos, I’m saying again - and maybe it’s not very popular - but I think this is not what we’re seeing in the picture,” Wolff said.

“The Ferrari is very strong, and we expect this fight for pole position and as a consequence race wins to continue.

“It didn’t look good [for us] and we weren’t where we expected to be in the first testing sessions [in Barcelona],” he added.

“Then we came back with the new aero package, the race one aero package, which we hoped would have a real impact on the car’s performance, and it didn’t on the first two days [of the second test].

“On the third day, we found the right setup direction, and on the fourth day we were able to post a time that was encouraging but no more.

“Obviously Melbourne came as a great surprise when everybody let their pants down that our performance was good enough. Then you get caught out.

“We came to Bahrain and we weren’t fast enough at a layout that is very much a rear-limited track with the most abrasive asphalt on the calendar, and Ferrari was the one that should have won the race in terms of pure car performance.”

Wolff said the level of performance achieved by Mercedes in China came “as a surprise” to him, having been convinced Ferrari’s straight-line speed advantage of around 0.3s would make the Italian squad clear favourites.

“I think we had good race pace on the Friday, but it wasn’t the completely dominant picture,” Wolff explained.

“It was solid, maybe had a tiny edge over Ferrari, but not what we’ve seen here. I think the work we have done for the race has been good.

“The car is solid on the tyres, and especially in Shanghai, which is a totally different track to Bahrain, we were able to have the right package.

“I believed that their straight line advantage, especially on the opening laps, would be a danger for us, and once DRS was enabled, even more. But we didn’t see them coming anywhere near us.

“I think our exit onto the main straight out of Turn 13 was very good, so we were able to pull a little gap there, so they were never close enough. But it came as a surprise.”
 

 

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