Mercedes-Benz’s Head of Motorsport, Toto Wolff, has underlined his team’s respect for fellow competitors Ferrari after the Formula 1 title fight between the two marques reach a new height of tension in Azerbaijan.
In F1’s new era of aerodynamic regulations, the Italian outfit have enjoyed a resurgence to winning ways at the hands of Sebastian Vettel, including race victories in Australia, Bahrain and Monte-Carlo, and currently have a 12-point advantage in the standings.
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, responded with triumphs of his own in China, Spain and Canada, though off-par results in Sochi and Monaco have given his slightly more decorated championship rival the upper hand.
The collision between the two before the restart in Baku has been well documented; the FIA ruled after investigating Vettel’s on-circuit actions last Monday that no further action was warranted.
The incident certainly raised tensions between the two outfits as the paddock prepares to head to the Red Bull Ring for this weekends Austrian Grand Prix.
Wolff admitted that Mercedes’ focus since the race in Baku has been on it’s own shortcomings after a dislodged headrest cost Hamilton the de facto race victory after Vettel was hit with a ten-second stop/go penalty, rather than events taking place in Paris.
“Every great Formula One season is marked by a great rivalry,” he commented.
“Last year it was our internal battle between Lewis and Nico [Rosberg] and this year it seems that the fight is on between Ferrari and Mercedes and Lewis and Sebastian.
“As calm as it started, it was only a matter of time until the rivalry would eventually become more fierce and controversial. That moment happened in Baku and we saw the results of that tension on track.
“We have moved passed that moment now and it is a closed chapter. The hearing on Monday was between the FIA and Sebastian and it reached the conclusion we have all seen. Our focus since Baku has been on our own shortcomings, reviewing both the design and procedures around our headrest which cost Lewis the win two weeks ago.
“There is great respect between Mercedes and Ferrari, two iconic motor racing brands, not only because of the challenging battle on track but because we are pushing for the same goal: to see Formula One flourish.
“ The new owners could hardly have asked for a better start to this new era than this epic battle between Mercedes and Ferrari. Add to the mix a Red Bull team that can win as well and it makes Formula One into a great spectacle.”