MIGHTY Mercedes are all set for action in the coming double header in Bahrain and have no plans for resting on their laurels despite winning seven Formula One constructors’ titles in a row.
Ever-competitive world champion Lewis Hamilton will also want to impress on his ‘favourite’ circuit having won three times already at Sakhir and teammate Valtteri Bottas would like to secure a victory after notching three podium finishes on the track.
Team boss Toto Wolff, looking ahead to Sunday’s 15th round of the 2020 Formula One season at the Bahrain International Circuit, said, “We’ve enjoyed some strong performances in Bahrain in the past and it’s always a track that produces interesting racing.
“Both titles may have already been decided, but we’re still going to give it our best shot and we will be following the intense battle for P3 in the championship with interest.
“We witnessed something truly remarkable at the last race in Turkey with Lewis winning his seventh Drivers’ Championship. And, the way in which he did it, was spectacular.
“In general, it was a difficult weekend for us as a team and a big challenge for everyone, but Lewis did an outstanding job to come from sixth on the grid to take victory and he has cemented his position among the all-time best sportspeople in the world.
“We had some mixed fortunes as it was a tough weekend for Valtteri, but we know how resilient and strong he is. I know he will bounce back stronger in these final three races.
“Now we look ahead to Bahrain and returning to a familiar circuit. It always presents an interesting challenge, because of the variation in track conditions and temperatures between the sessions. FP1 and FP3 are held in the warmer daytime temperatures, but FP2, qualifying and the race take place in the cooler evening climate. This makes it challenging to set up the car and gather the right information when it counts.”
Wolff joined Mercedes from Williams in February 2013. As a 30 per cent shareholder in Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix and an executive director, he has worked since that time as the team’s managing partner, responsible for day-to-day operations alongside his wider responsibilities as head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.
Like Hamilton his contract with Mercedes ends this year. But the team boss spoke of succession planning recently and acknowledged he could hand over the baton in the not too distant future for someone else to run with.
The Austrian said he and Mercedes’ parent company Daimler had agreed on him staying in a different function such as CEO or chairman.
“Daimler has very much given me the choice but before me transitioning into a new role, I need to make sure that somebody else is doing the 23 races and I can enjoy myself in front of a Zoom screen,” Wolff said.
He was also reported to have joked about Hamilton’s record-extending 94th career victory and 10th in 14 races this year, saying, “It (the contract) just got really more expensive!
“More than likely we are looking towards the end of the year now. It’s not that we won’t find the time for each other, but I don’t want to put ourselves under pressure. We don’t want to say ‘before Bahrain’ or ‘before Abu Dhabi’ that we will announce a new contract. There’s no pressure. When it’s done, it’s done.”
Formula One’s first Black driver and champion told Reuters in an interview that he also looked forward to more success with a team that has dominated the sport in recent years.
The Briton is Formula One’s most successful driver, equalling Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record seven titles and smashing the German’s records for most career wins.
“This year there has been this awakening,” said the 35-year-old. “Already it has sparked a change but it’s really important that it’s not just symbolism, it’s important that it’s not just words ... that we take real action to make change, to make this a more diverse sport.”
The diversity of Bahrain is probably why he loves the kingdom so much. Back in 2008 Hamilton, then aged 23, said, “I love the Bahrain circuit, it is one of the ones I really look forward to, like Monaco and Spa.
“It is not so much for the track itself, but because of the facilities; the way the place is organised; the people. It is just such a great trip. It is one of the few places you go to without stress or hassle and you just feel so relaxed there.
“Take the treatment we received last year, for example – the people where we were staying, the fans that come to the track, they are all just generally really nice people and the organisation at the track is by far the best probably out of all the Grand Prix circuits.”
Covid-19 may have put paid to the fans attending this year, although there is a special place in the stands for frontline workers and their families, but the high quality of the organisation remains the same, promises the BIC.
Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver in Bahrain, with four wins. Hamilton is the only other current driver to have won here, having taken victory in 2014, 2015 and 2019.
Insiders say that in a year of making and breaking records, Hamilton aims to equal and then overtake his Scuderia Ferrari rival.