Mercedes chief Toto Wolff sees more competition in F1by William Odinga 20/03/2017 11:33:00 0 comments 1 Views
- The 2017 Formula One season begins in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend
- Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes heads into the campaign as favourites for the title
- A host of rule changes have been made ahead of the start of the new campaign
- Mercedes chief Toto Wolff insists these changes have increased competition
- READ: How will rule changes impact Formula One during the 2017 season?
By Alan Baldwin, Reuters
Published: 11:32 EDT, 20 March 2017 | Updated: 11:33 EDT, 20 March 2017
Formula One's new rules are 'just what the doctor ordered', even if rival teams have become more competitive, according to Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff.
One of the biggest rule shake-ups in recent history has seen cars and tyres widened to increase downforce and grip, increased driver responsibility at the start and the introduction of standing restarts after the safety car has left the track following a wet start.
Wolff, speaking ahead of Sunday's Australian season-opener in Melbourne, insisted Mercedes, the dominant team of the past three years, faced a big challenge under the new regulations.
Lewis Hamilton will once again be behind the wheel of a Mercedes during the 2017 season
Hamilton, pictured with team principal Toto Wolff and new team-mate Valtteri Bottas
'We have been very successful over the last three years through stable rules -- but no team has ever maintained its success over such a big regulation change before,' said Wolff.
'In a way, it's just what the doctor ordered. To have such a challenge is good for the team.
'We have done the best job we possibly could over the winter and, if we are not the fastest in Melbourne, then it's about finding out why and what needs to be done to get us back to that top spot.'
FORMULA ONE 2017 SCHEDULE
March 26 - Australia (Melbourne)
April 9 - China (Shanghai)
April 16 - Bahrain (Bahrain)
April 30 - Russia (Sochi)
May 14 - Spain (Barcelona)
May 28 - Monaco (Monte Carlo)
June 11 - Canada (Montreal)
June 25 - Azerbaijan (Baku)
July 9 - Austria (Spielberg)
July 16 - Great Britain (Silverstone)
July 30 - Hungary (Budapest)
August 27 - Belgium (Spa)
September 3 - Italy (Monza)
September 17 - Singapore (Singapore)
October 1 - Malaysia (Sepang)
October 8 - Japan (Suzuka)
October 22 - USA (Austin)
October 29 - Mexico (Mexico City)
November 12 - Brazil (Sao Paulo)
November 26 - Abu Dhabi
Ferrari emerged from pre-season testing with the quickest times, although the Mercedes pairing of triple champion Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas did the most laps with impressive reliability.
Bottas, previously with Williams, has replaced 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, who retired days after winning his first title.
Hamilton, winner of 53 grands prix over his career to date, starts the season as favourite for a fourth championship and to win the opening race.
Ferrari have emerged from the winter with the quickest times under the new specifications
Bookmakers William Hill have the Briton at 10/11 for Melbourne, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel second favourite at 7/2 and Bottas at 6/1.
'We believe that it is going to be another Mercedes procession but the Australian Grand Prix is often unpredictable,' said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.
Wolff said testing in Barcelona had indicated 'that the margins at the front of the field have shrunk,' although there was no way of knowing for sure.
Wolff believes the 'margins at the front of the field have shrunk' heading into the new season
Teams use testing to experiment with fuel loads and power unit settings.
Mercedes have won 51 of 59 grands prix since the 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid units were introduced. The team also started all but one of last season's races on pole position.
Ferrari and Red Bull are the only teams to have beaten Mercedes since 2013.