Mercedes still have 'weapons in our armoury left' for Red Bull fight in F1 2021 despite 2022 car shift
"Time will tell when we look back in five or 10 years whether it was the right or the wrong decision but, in any case, this fight [in 2021] is not over," insists Toto Wolff
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 28/06/21 5:32pm
Toto Wolff says Mercedes can continue to fight Red Bull strongly for F1's world titles this year despite the focus of their car development being on 2022, a shift they will not wind back.
Wolff told Sky Sports F1 ahead of May's Monaco GP that Mercedes, then still in the lead of both world championships, were already "flat out in 2022" with only minimal tweaks in the works for this year's W12 car.
Red Bull, who have continued to add items to their RB16B, stretched their winning run to four consecutive wins for the first time in the hybrid-engine era at Sunday's Styrian GP, with Max Verstappen now leading Lewis Hamilton by 18 points in the drivers' standings and the team 40 points clear of Mercedes in the constructors'.
But that fact will not lead Mercedes to compromise work on next year's car, the first season of radically new technical rules in F1.
Explaining the 2021-2022 balance, Wolff told Sky F1: "It's certainly very tough because of this strategic situation that we have a completely new car next year.
"With a different fuel, a different engine that will be homologated and frozen, and the car is basically like you are going to a totally different concept.
"You need to balance these two seasons against each other.
"Time will tell when we look back in five or 10 years whether it was the right or the wrong decision but, in any case, this fight [in 2021] is not over."
Mercedes are instead focused on optimising a W12 car that has won three races this season, with Wolff confident that the reigning champions are still right in the hunt with as many as 15 races still to go.
"They will stop aero development at a certain stage because it would be dangerous to lose out in next year's championship," said Wolff of Red Bull. "The fight is still full on.
"That wasn't our best circuit in the past, it wasn't today, and it doesn't mean we have no weapons in our armoury left."
Can Mercedes close the gap for race two in Austria?
Mercedes have an immediate chance to put any lessons from last week's race in Austria into practice given F1 races for a second successive week at the Red Bull Ring.
After qualifying two tenths of a second behind Verstappen, Hamilton trailed the Dutchman by 17 seconds after 69 laps of the 71-lap race before Mercedes opted for a 'free' pit stop to go for the fastest lap bonus point.
"The next days look like scratching our heads and trying to look at the race and see if there is anything we could have done better with set-up direction," explained Wolff on Sunday.
"I think we found some clues for qualifying. Could we have optimised on race pace? Obviously, that's always a balance. It's very interesting; I'm really looking forward to analysing and see whether in a week's time we can do a better job."
Asked if having another race so soon was a positive or negative, Wolff replied: "It's good. Even if we take another one on the chin next week we will take it, we'll score the points and go to Silverstone, a track that we love."