Mercedes' Toto Wolff believes his team's significant reduction in deficit to the front-running cars indicates a title tilt could still be on the cards for the Brackley-based outfit, after a much more competitive Spanish Grand Prix.
Having struggled for outright pace over the first five Grands Prix, often over a second a lap off the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, Mercedes showed up with plenty of updates for the W13 in Barcelona.
The updates included a new floor design, which had the effect of significantly reducing the porpoising effects that has cost them performance since the start of the season.
The two drivers put the updates to good use, with George Russell finishing on the podium in third place after a length defence against the Red Bull drivers.
Further back, Lewis Hamilton recovered from falling to the very rear of the field after a first lap clash with Haas' Kevin Magnussen. Climbing back to fourth, Hamilton claimed fifth at the chequered flag after a late technical issue forced him to slow down and cede the position.
Wolff claimed that Hamilton's drive made the Mercedes look once again like a "World Championship-winning" race car, and the team boss said he now believes a title fight may be on the cards.
Wolff: We believe we can fight for the title
“I’ve seen a race car today that reminded me of the race cars of previous seasons, where you’re 30 plus seconds behind the whole field, and you come all the way to the front and near the podium," Wolff told media, including RacingNews365.com.
"That is very encouraging and shows that we’ve made another step.
"Can we fight for a world championship? Well, we bet we can. But we just need to have a car that is able to finish first and second. And I think we have reasons to believe that we can get there."
Following their stronger Spanish performance, Mercedes are currently third in the Constructors' Championship. This has them 75 points behind leaders Red Bull.
In the Drivers' Championship, Russell is the higher-placed of the pair, as he is currently 36 points away from Max Verstappen's total.
"If you look at the odds, they are against us," Wolff said.
"But motor racing is a different ballgame. We’ve seen today [Sunday] that Ferrari didn’t score a lot of points although they should. We are absolutely pushing flat out in order to bring us back into the game."
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Mercedes happy with engine performance
Having had some question marks levelled at the engine over the opening races, Wolff was asked about the performance of the power unit overall following the introduction of a second power unit for both Hamilton and Russell in Spain.
In 2021, Mercedes engines proved to be considerably stronger when fresh, although the engine freeze in place since the start of March 2022 rules out the possibility of any performance tweaks being made to boost its power output.
"I think it's little bits and pieces everywhere," Wolff explained.
"The engine performance is good. The driveability is in a good place, and the balance between drag and load has functioned well this weekend.
"So this is where we want to have the car in terms of straight-line performance."
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RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth discuss the Spanish Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen won a thrilling race after Charles Leclerc retired. But was the on-track action soured by a poor fan experience at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?