Mercedes and Red Bull have dominated the opening two rounds of the 2021 F1 season with a win apiece in Bahrain and Imola, while McLaren and Ferrari have been fighting it out for ‘best of the rest’.

While Max Verstappen won from Lewis Hamilton in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, there were signs across the weekend that the leading two team’s advantage over the rest of the field has shrunk.

Both McLaren and Ferrari managed to get at least one of their cars within 0.4s of pole position in qualifying, while Lando Norris claimed a second career podium in third place having valiantly kept a recovering Hamilton behind him for a brief spell.

With McLaren and Ferrari showing signs of clear improvement over the winter, Wolff is anticipating both teams to factor in the battle at the front as F1 returns to the Algarve Circuit for back-to-back races in Portugal and Spain.

“Last year was our first race in Portimão,” said Wolff. “It’s an exciting, undulating track and produced some great racing in 2020; we also saw in qualifying and the opening laps that getting the tyres working properly is not easy.

“It's still quite a new circuit for everyone, which should make things interesting and mean we are learning all through the weekend.

“We’re expecting another close fight with Red Bull, and both McLaren and Ferrari could also be in the mix too. So, let's see how things play out in Portugal.”

When Hamilton slid off the track having made a rare mistake and Valtteri Bottas was wiped out in a crash with Williams driver George Russell, it looked at one stage like Mercedes might not score any points at Imola.

But Hamilton’s superb recovery drive to P2 ensured the reigning world champions preserved their lead in both the drivers’ and constructors’ standings heading to Portimao.

“Imola was a crazy race and the kind of grand prix that lives long in the memory,” Wolff explained.

“There were so many ups and downs and there were a few moments where it felt like we wouldn't score any points at all. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the disappointment of Valtteri's scary accident to the thrill of Lewis' recovery drive.

“To come away leading both championships almost felt like a get out of jail free card, because our rivals didn't maximise the opportunity we gave them. And it just proves what a challenging season we have ahead of us and how quickly things can turn around in Formula 1.”