Mercedes: Ending year as F1’s "first loser" not the target

Mercedes says that overhauling Ferrari to finish an unlikely second in the Formula 1 world championship this year matters less than getting back to winning ways later this season.

Mercedes: Ending year as F1’s "first loser" not the target
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The German car manufacturer appears to have turned the corner on its early campaign troubles as it bagged a second double podium finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

George Russell came home third, having started from pole position, while Lewis Hamilton recovered from a DRS failure in qualifying to take his second successive second place finish.

With Ferrari enduring another torrid afternoon, as title contender Charles Leclerc slumped to sixth and Carlos Sainz finished fourth, Mercedes has closed to within 30 points of its Italian rivals in the constructors’ championship.

Based on its current trajectory, Mercedes has a good chance to overhaul Ferrari and finish behind Red Bull this season – but team boss Toto Wolff says that such a feat is not of that much interest.

Instead, he says that of much more importance to him is the ability for Mercedes to take another performance step and start delivering race wins on pure pace.

“Second, first loser,” he said, when asked about the chances of now beating Ferrari this season.

“I think that for me personally, whether second or third in the constructors' world championship is not so relevant compared to really racing and being at the front and developing the car so we can win races on merit.

“Beat the Ferraris, beat the Red Bull and prepare for next year rather than really care about the championship position.”

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG2n congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG, 3rd position, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG2n congratulate each other in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Hamilton’s runner-up position at the Hungaroring means that he has now finished on the podium more times than early championship favourite Leclerc – showing the level of progress that Mercedes has made.

But Wolff, again, says that being among the frontrunners is not something that his team wants – it is about being in front.

“I would have rather had more wins and less podiums,” he said. “We are humbled, but we are striving for race victories rather than second and third. But if they are on merit like today, then it's a good step forward.”

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Wolff reckoned that beyond the Hungary result, the amount of understanding it has taken away from its up and down weekend will be hugely helpful in pushing it forward over the second half of the campaign.

“I think it was a difficult weekend overall, because the suffering of Friday was just big when we didn't really know which direction to look at,” he added.

“Maybe getting it so wrong on Friday was helpful in getting it very right, almost completely right, on Sunday.

“I think we have a lot of data to look at, a lot of positiveness from the last weekend in France and here, and that we can build on for the second half of the season.”

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