Mercedes convinced Verstappen a title threat in 2019

Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff says the team has to consider Max Verstappen a title threat after the Red Bull driver followed up his two recent wins with pole position in Hungary.

Mercedes convinced Verstappen a title threat in 2019

With 11 of the 21 rounds run, Verstappen lies 63 points behind world championship leader Lewis Hamilton, and just 22 behind second-placed Valtteri Bottas.

The Dutchman, who has finished in the top five in every race thus far, has outscored the two Mercedes drivers over the last four races.

“Yes,” said Wolff when asked if Verstappen was a title threat. “I think there are 10 more races to go, so 260 points to score. What’s our advantage? Sixty-odd.

“You can see from the sheer maths that 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.”

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Asked to assess Honda’s form, Wolff said: “First of all the Red Bull chassis was always among the best, and it still is. And then Honda has made a big step forward from last year to this year, and all credit to them.

“I’m happy to see that for F1, because a strong Honda is good for F1, good for the competition, and at the end if there’s a fourth power unit supplier that has a competitive package that is generally positive for all of us. And it also shows us that we’ve got to reinvent ourselves in a way, and I see this as really positive journey.”

After being beaten to pole by Verstappen, Bottas said that Red Bull and Honda’s recent surge will only encourage Mercedes to work harder.

“Obviously it always depends on the tracks and circumstances,” said the Finn. “But if you look at the trend, let’s say from the last five races, I think Red Bull has been the one who has been improving the most, closing the gap and today qualifying on pole.

“So, for sure they are doing many things right, and that means we have to work harder as a team. But I’m sure Ferrari isn’t standing still either.”

Wolff said he echoed his driver’s sentiments.

“I think he’s damn right,” said the Austrian when asked by Motorsport.com. “We had a good streak of success, and it feels now that probably the 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 setting the benchmark.

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

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1, Pole Sitter Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 in Parc Ferme

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1, Pole Sitter Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

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