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Wolff delivers Red Bull verdict: 'I don't know whether they've taken a step backwards'

Whatever the reason, and despite Max Verstappen winning two of the last three GPs, the field is oh-so close now.

To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has questioned whether Red Bull has "taken a step backwards" even though Max Verstappen has still won two of the last three grands prix.

The start to this season appeared to be an extension of the all-conquering year enjoyed by Verstappen and Red Bull last term, with the team enjoying one-two finishes, spearheaded by the three-time F1 champion.

But Red Bull has since come under pressure, initially from Ferrari, then McLaren, and now Mercedes, which had a chance to win the Canadian Grand Prix after George Russell secured pole position, only for the Briton to finish third.

Verstappen has also often bemoaned various aspects of his RB20 at times over a grand prix weekend, with its most obvious fault its struggle to ride kerbs and bumps, highlighted to an extreme extent in Monaco.

Whatever the issues, in tandem with the steps made by its three main rivals, the competition is now closer in this aerodynamic era than at any time since the regulations were introduced at the start of 2022.

"The last few races were more difficult for them [Red Bull]," said Wolff, speaking on Sky Sports F1. "I think everybody has been taking good steps forward.

"There were two or three teams that could have potentially won the race [in Canada], maybe us not quite. I don't know whether they've taken a step backward. The most important thing is it [the gap] is shrinking."

The feeling now, as expressed by Russell, is the upcoming triple-header will likely favour Red Bull. Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya is followed by Austria's Red Bull Ring, and then Silverstone.

"Maybe Barcelona will be interesting, whether they are strong there," assessed Wolff. "Austria is their territory. McLaren was strong there last year when they had their comeback. That's never a good one for us.

"You can't discount Max and the Red Bulls, they are still the benchmark, they are right up there, but McLaren has made huge steps, and don't forget Ferrari, they were not visible [in Canada], but two weeks ago [in Monaco] they were the benchmark.

"That's four teams that are competitive now."

Mercedes' performance, with Russell securing the team's first podium of the season, was the culmination of the progress made so far this season in relation to the continual development applied over the first few months.

Wolff is naturally hoping the step forward will now apply everywhere, with the Spanish Grand Prix "a good test because it has all sorts of corners"

"I hope it [the performance in Canada] is not track-related," he said. Montreal is the outlier with that mid-range corner speed and change of directions.

"Overall, the drivers said the car is now in a space that they can push it, they have more confidence and everything comes much easier."

Also interesting:

Max Verstappen hit back after an out-of-sorts Monaco GP, Sergio Perez floundered again - and into a controversial retirement. How much damage can Ferrari and McLaren inflict with Red Bull fighting with one hand tied behind its back, did the Milton Keynes-based team re-sign Perez too soon? After a thoroughly entertaining Canadian GP, host Nick Golding is joined by Ian Parkes and Samuel Coop to analyse all things.

Rather watch than listen to the podcast? Click here

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