Ferrari have a huge problem to fix with their engines showing major reliability issues, and Mercedes could be ready to pounce if it continues to cost them too many championship points
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It is a hot topic in the wake of the double DNF of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and a major worry for the Italian team. Chief Mattia Binotto admitted as much in the wake of two more engine failures for Ferrari-powered drivers Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen in the same race.
“We said it even before coming here in Baku, reliability is always a key factor in the battle,” said the worried team boss. “As a team, we pushed a lot to develop the car during the winter, but we proved we are not yet fully reliable.
“There is still some work to be done. We didn’t get euphoric at the start of the season, we will not be deflated right now. The team will stay focused, work hard and make us stronger for the future.”
In the wake of Ferrari’s first double DNF caused by reliability issues in 13 years, the team’s title chances look a lot slimmer than they did just a few days ago. Leclerc is now 34 points adrift of drivers’ standings leader Max Verstappen, while a 1-2 finish for Red Bull means they are now 80 points ahead in the constructors’ championship.
Mercedes benefitted greatly from Ferrari’s Baku misfortune, as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished third and fourth respectively. The Silver Arrows are lurking 38 points behind now, and could take advantage if the Italian team were to suffer any further engine woes this season.
“When your car is not super-competitive with the front guys, [it is about] maximising those points,” said Wolff after a better result than he might have expected from the race. “It is important to consolidate and make sure that you are no worse than third.”
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He then went off to send a warning to Ferrari, telling them that Mercedes will do their best to take full advantage if they continue to throw away points over car reliability. “But equally, you see the situation at Ferrari. If they drop the ball often then we are there,” he added.
Despite their obvious struggle for performance, Mercedes have been the gold standard for reliability so far this season. After eight races, they are the only team to have had both cars finish every time without fail.
That doesn’t mean the team will become complacent, though, as Wolff emphasised the importance of making sure the cars continue to avoid niggling problems. “You always need to be on your toes with reliability because you need to score the points and not only be fast,” he added.
“I mean, I feel for the Ferrari guys because they have a super-powerful engine and a good car, but in the end, losing so many points makes you lose the championship. You need to be always wary, and we are because the car could still stop at any time.”