Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes reliability will play a “fundamental part” in determining the early races of the 2020 Formula 1 season.

Following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, F1 will restart with the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5, which kicks off a run of two triple-header events and a total of eight European-based races in just 10 weeks.

It will mark the first time F1 drivers will have raced in six months, while cars have not been run competitively since pre-season testing concluded in Barcelona at the end of February.

Mercedes was thwarted by a number of engine-related issues throughout winter testing but was confident it had got on top of the problem by the Australian Grand Prix, which was cancelled at the last-minute due to an outbreak of coronavirus in the paddock.

The German manufacturer’s performance has been compromised at the Red Bull Ring - which will play host to the first two races of the revised 2020 season - due to cooling issues with its package, while it suffered a rare double retirement in Spielberg in 2018.

"First of all this new calendar and the coronavirus throws some new challenges at us,” Wolff said. “I think reliability is going to be a fundamental part of the opening races.

“The cars have come out of the container straight from Australia. There is not a lot of time for them on the dynos. We will be using every session to learn.

“The reduced race calendar is a challenge for everybody and again, I think that the team that has the quickest car and the most reliable package will win the championship.”

Mercedes fell behind rivals Ferrari in terms of engine performance last season and Wolff reckons there will be little difference between all the power unit manufacturers this year due to expected further convergence amid stable regulations.

“Last year’s Ferrari power unit was much more powerful, but we haven’t seen it yet,” Wolff explained.

“Only in a qualifying session and the race is everyone really going to show their hand, and we haven’t seen that.

“I’m obviously always on the pessimistic side – we need to catch up, we need to come out with a reliable and powerful and drivable engine and I hope it’s enough.

“But I also wouldn’t discount Honda and Renault, I think pretty much every single power unit supplier is pretty much on par now.”



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