Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Hungaroring, 2019

Mercedes now consider Verstappen a “title rival” – Wolff

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen has to be considered a “title rival” given his recent string of form, says Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Verstappen has won two of the last three races and given further indication of Red Bull’s form by taking pole position for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver goes into the race 63 points behind Lewis Hamilton and 22 behind Valtteri Bottas. However Wolff is not ruling him out of championship contention.

“There is 10 more races to go, 260 points to score,” said Wolff. “So you can see from the sheer maths Max is somebody we need to take seriously and consider as a title rival in the same way we need to consider the two Ferrari drivers as title rivals. We cannot afford to take the foot off the throttle.”

Red Bull and Honda’s first pole position together reflects the progress they have made since the start of the season. Wolff says this must spur Mercedes on to raise their game too.

“We had a good streak of success and it feels now that probably to push that we need to do is even more. The others are catching up and it’s easier to catch up than to maintain the level and set the benchmark.

“There is a reason why no one ever won a six consecutive double constructors and drivers championship because it is not easy. I guess that we all know that but we’ve got to push harder and smarter in order to to stay ahead.”

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Keith Collantine
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22 comments on “Mercedes now consider Verstappen a “title rival” – Wolff”

  1. Team orders?

    1. @davidjwest: Seems like. And the 1st team order: No silly costumes with matching pitstops.

    2. @davidjwest
      I doubt Lewis will comply if told to let Valtteri past.

      1. So no faith that Bottas can stay in front of Hamilton? Fair enough.

        1. Of course he can, it’s hard to pass around this track.

          But Mercedes might want to use team orders if they feel Max is a threat to Hamilton in terms of the title fight.

  2. I’m not sure if Verstappen winning is good news or bad news for Bottas. I feel like another racer in the mix could allow Bottas to sneak by as Verstappen takes points away from Hamilton. But Verstappen is really not that far from Bottas either so… yea. Open championship!

    1. Verstappen’s main problem is how his car performs at places like Spa and Monza, recently they’ve been quite weak at this type of track. But if Honda have sorted their power deficit out then it’s game on.

  3. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    4th August 2019, 10:58

    It’s good for F1 as a whole to have someone new and “exciting” able to reliably challenge those at the front. Max has come on a long way in the last 18 months or so, 2017/2018 Max would not be getting the results current Max is getting. It’s not that he’s a better driver now, he’s just more… clever, for lack of a better word.

    Game on hopefully, although I can’t see Hamilton letting this much of a lead slide without serious misfortune.

  4. Bottas needs Max between him and Lewis today to make sure team orders dont come into play.

  5. I doubt it. Not this year anymore, though.

    1. Of course he’s not a realistic contender this year. Toto is just doing his thing again.

      Yes, mathematically speaking it is still possible of course, but he’d need to win all remaining races or so assuming Hamilton doesnt crash out. And given that the car is still at a deficit to Mercedes especially on power tracks (despite what Toto would have us believe) that just isnt realistic. Add to that the fact that RB will undoubtedly take grid penalties for parts changes after the summer break.

      If RBR manage to have a competitive car from the start of the season next year, then game on. But not 2019 unfortunately, however much I’d like to see it.

      1. I think a lot depends on if the recent form is down purely to Max or if Red Bull/Honda have made genuine strides forward.

        If the latter then Max is absolutely a title contender, not favourite but still in with a realistic chance. We will know better after Monza.

        Bookies had Max as 33/1 for the title after Germany (anyone know what his odds were before?) and he’s now 20/1 – if he wins today maybe 10/1?

  6. This race could mark the end of Hamilton’s reign in F1-
    A fork in the road. He may well keep winning some races and perhaps a this year championship, but he will no longer be considered the best driver in the sport.
    Harsh truth.

    1. He really should win today quite comfortably and I expect he will, but it will take more wins before he can realistically be considered better than Hamilton. For anyone to consider a 0 x WDC to be better than a 5 x WDC is a bit of a stretch, he needs to perform over a number of seasons for that.

    2. Not sure he’s ever been considered the best driver of any season.

    3. @liko41 I’m beginning to think these overexcited responses to Vertstappen are simply recognition of an actual rival to Hamilton at more or less the same level. I actually agree that MV has been the best driver over the second half of last season (excluding Brazil) and this, simply because he has maximized results and whenever RBR have had the car to challenge, he has delivered. And Hamilton has been underpar in qualifying this year. But that’s still a long way from translating into anything absolute.

      1. @david-br
        You mean Brazil, that race where Max overtook 2 Ferrari’s, 2 Mercedes’s only to be taken out by a clueless backmarker?
        A clueless backmarker who received the second to worst penalty possible, as a clear sign how badly the stewards thought of that action.
        Blaming Max is like blaming someone who ignores an agressively drunk person on the street, minding his own business, only to be hit in the back by that drunk person. Or blaming a rape victim for wearing a “sexy” dress. It makes no sense whatsoever.

        1. @oconomo Classy final comparison.
          See Max’s interview on Sky before the race: he says the big change he has made since the midpoint of last season is deciding when and when not to take risks. I’m not blaming him for the Ocon collision. But as Hamilton said to him after the race, he could easily have avoided given Ocon the chance to compete for the corner and take him out. If you don’t get this point, there’s no point in discussing it further.

  7. I seriously don’t understand why Hamilton after all he’s achieved, gone up against, his low points and high that people won’t give him the credit he has earned, not deserves but earned.

    Truly unfair I think.

    The future battles will involve Verstappen and a string of other young drivers which will keep me entertained but if Verstappen wins today good for him, he is definitely in form and has earnt the respect of the paddock. More importantly he is learning from his mistakes just like a certain 5x World champion did.

    1. well said iCarbs

  8. GtisBetter (@)
    4th August 2019, 13:00

    I doubt he really thinks that. It’s very easy to see why mercedes were not scoring 100% and there is no reason to think that Honda has suddenly fixed the straight speed difference.

  9. a quick look at the components used by the top 3 teams and it’s clear that Max doesnt realistically stand a chance at this championship. Honda will surely need to add at least one new PU, if not 2, so grid penalties will surely occur for them. Plus, there are more tracks that historically suit Merc and Ferrari more than RBR in the second half (Spa, Monza, Suzuka, etc)

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