Toto Wolff defends Mercedes and sends message to Red Bull and Max Verstappen

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has described the battle with Red Bull as a “heavyweight contest” but warned his rivals they will come back stronger ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen extended his lead at the top of the driver standings after a defiant victory over Lewis Hamilton at the Styrian Grand Prix, after Mercedes seemingly had no answers to Red Bull’s pace.

The Dutchman led the race to snatch a lights to flag victory in the Austrian Mountains, with Red Bull extending their lead to 40 points in the constructors.

In the aftermath, Hamilton admitted they had no response to Red Bull’s speed during the weekend, and suggested Mercedes look at bringing some upgrades to races if they are to continue to put pressure on their rivals for the title.

It came after Toto Wolff reiterated that Mercedes has no plans to deviate from its current development schedule for 2022 by pulling resources back for this year.

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However, technical boss James Allison contradicted those claims, explaining: “We have a number of things that will make our car faster in the coming races. Let’s hope they prove sufficient.”

Allison insisted there was no contradiction between his remarks and Wolff’s comments, but when the latter was asked whether he meant that there would be no more upgrades to the car in 2021, he replied: “That’s basically what I’m saying, yes.”

“Last weekend, we maximised the opportunities available to us and despite not having the quickest car, took a solid double podium and a good haul of points,” said Wolff.

“Every time we hit the track; we race to win. But, while we missed out on the top step of the podium last time out, there was still plenty to be encouraged by. Our drivers performed well, our pit stops were excellent, and our strategy calls were strong.

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“We head back to the Styrian mountains this weekend with another big challenge on our hands but running on the same circuit on consecutive weekends brings opportunity too.

“We had an experimental Friday with the car set-up last weekend, and we hope to arrive to FP1 this weekend with the car in a happier place, ready to build from there.

“The tyre compounds are also a step softer this weekend, so that will bring a new challenge for all the teams and fresh possibilities in terms of strategy.

“This championship is a heavyweight contest over 23 rounds, and we’re just over a third of the way through. There are many opportunities to come and it’s still all to play for, so we’re excited for round nine.”

Verstappen and Hamilton have three wins apiece over the season heading into round nine, the Austrian Grand Prix.

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