‘A target on our back’: Wolff aware Mercedes facing toughest challenge yet

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff acknowledges that the time a rival Formula 1® team “runs faster” than them will eventually come.

Wolff is hoping to prolong Mercedes’ dominance for as long as possible, though, and the signs were encouraging at the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019 on Friday.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton – a five-time world title winner – was quickest in both sessions of practice in Melbourne while Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas improved to finish second in Free Practice 2.

Quizzed by reporters on Friday about how Mercedes planned to deal with their toughest challenge yet, their sixth season with the same engine rules, Wolff said: “I tried to find a statistic in whatever sport of a team winning every year. There isn’t any.”

“At some stage, somebody else picks up the ball and runs faster,” he added.

“The longer you leave regulations alone, the more convergence happens. We have seen that definitely every year we have been in these (engine) regulations – the gap has become smaller.

“We just have to be on our toes. Every year we try to have a mindset of all points going to zero and you just need to do the same job again.”

Wolff acknowledged that “everybody’s trying to get us” but that his team would continue to work extremely hard to remain at the top of the pack.

“We’re trying to be energised and motivated, not take anything for granted, respect the other teams and the work they are doing,” he said.

“We will be running around with a target on our back and everybody’s trying to get us, in so far as we’re pushing hard every year and trying to maintain the advantage for a bit.”

Hamilton and Bottas are favoured to go one-two in Saturday’s qualifying session, which will determine the grid for Sunday’s main race on the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.

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