Renault and McLaren may pose a significant challenge in 2018 believes Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Since last four years, the German squad has dominated the Constructors’ Championship and Drivers Championship.Ferrari came close to be being the Silver Arrows’ closest challenger in 2017.
But the threat is not just from the Italian squad and Red Bull, but also from McLaren which will be powered by Renault from next season, says Wolff.
Renault made steady progress on its engine last season, so even they cannot be discounted, he added.
“We mustn’t discount anybody,” said Wolff. “Today, as it stands, it looks like Ferrari and Red Bull.
“I am curious to see where McLaren and Renault come out. I wouldn’t write anybody off. The rules will stay the same, so it could be a very competitive season.”
In an interview to the Formula 1 website, Wolff said: “I guess we will see a fight between Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing – and maybe McLaren-Renault will join us in the title fight. That is an exciting outlook for the fans.”
Another challenger may come from within the team as the intra-team conflict between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will come to the forefront in 2018. Bottas’ confidence is on the rise after his last win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Wolff says as long as the mutual respect and civility between both their drivers continues, and doesn’t devolve into a bitter rivalry seen between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, such an intra-team competition is beneficial.
“We are not trying to be a family,” said Wolff. “We are a racing team and an effective racing team needs tension, stress and disruption as much as it needs calmness and a positive mindset.”
The most prominent threat to Mercedes comes from within their fold, their car. The 2017 car W08 was called a ‘Diva’ because of its high maintenance and inconsistent behaviour that had caused a bit of panic within the team in a few races. It will be interesting to see how the 2018 car will evolve and if the German outfit can figure out their next beast in time.
“It was a capricious diva,” added Wolff. “Next year we would like to keep the diva but get rid of the capricious character.”