Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Ferrari's Formula 1 wins this year have turned out to be a helpful "slap" in the face that his outfit needed to keep focused on improving its car.
After a dominant start to the campaign for Mercedes in Australia, Sebastian Vettel turned the tables on Ferrari with a stunning win in Malaysia – and more recently took his second triumph in Hungary.
In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Wolff has admitted that Ferrari's form has prevented his team relaxing and thinking the championship was all but won.
“Malaysia was certainly a little bit of a wake-up call,” explained Wolff. “After Melbourne we felt we had the situation under control and we were caught out for various reasons. And in hindsight, maybe such a little slap is good sometimes for the organisation.”
“We have definitely benefited because we have probably set new, more aggressive targets in terms of development, lap time targets and quality expectations. We know that the threat is real.”
Post summer switch
Ferrari's Hungaroring success has left it as a dark horse for the championship, especially with the Italian outfit expected to bring engine upgrades after the summer break.
And well aware of how in recent years the formbook can change in the second half of the campaign, Wolff is mindful that Mercedes is not in clear air just yet.
“We haven't won the championship yet,” he said. “We are just mid-season. There have been lots of historic seasons where teams either run into trouble later on, or others increase the pace of development. So let's stay on planet earth.
“It is the summer; there are another nine races to go and I can only answer the question at the end of the year about whether it was more difficult or easy.
“For the time being, from a purely scientific viewpoint, the organisation keeps developing and working effectively and we have no reasons to fear how we are being set up and structured is less good than last year.”
When asked if there was a possibility Ferrari could return from the summer in even stronger form, Wolff said: “Yes. Winning the second championship is an important championship for us and we will continue to relentlessly develop the current car.
“Don't forget we will benefit also for next year's car because the regulations will stay stable.”