Wolff was convinced Hamilton and Russell would be “eating up” the McLarens at British GP restart

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2023 has been a season in which several teams have varied in their performance each race, including Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes, who are in contention for second place in the constructors’ championship.

After the Brackley-based team’s results in Austria left something to be desired, at Silverstone they set about the task of achieving better results, and they got them with third place for Lewis Hamilton and fifth place for George Russell, but the McLarens surprised at the British GP.

On lap 33, the Haas of Dane’s Kevin Magnussen developed an engine problem, causing a safety car which allowed several drivers to pit. After the safety car left the track, Norris and Piastri were on hard tyres while Hamilton would be on soft tyres competing for second place against his fellow Brit, with Russell on medium tyres gunning for fourth versus the Aussie.

The Woking team’s decision to have both drivers on hard compounds came as a surprise to many, who thought it would make it easier for Mercedes to cruise by on their drivers.

Toto Wolff wasn’t the exception and was confident that Hamilton would get a P2 and Russell P3: “When the safety car was deployed, I was pretty sure – if not convinced – that we will be eating up the McLaren’s and finishing with P2 and P3 or even challenging for the front.”

Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

The performance of Norris and Piastri on the hards, however, surprised everyone. Wolff admitted to being part of that group.

“We could’ve had a go at them in the first few laps, but they both raced very strong and with their efficiency and top speed through the high speed corners and on the straight, there was no way to pass them. That came as a surprise.”

Following Wolff’s statement, the media turned to Hamilton for his views on the matter, asking about his confidence in passing Norris and inquiring at what point he realised that this would not be possible.

The 38-year-old replied that up until that point he had no idea of the strengths of the Andrea Stella-led team because he had not been behind a McLaren before racing resumed on lap 39.

“Yeah, I mean, just knowing what it’s like to be on the hards on the restart at the end with someone on the softs behind, I knew that it would be difficult.

“I hadn’t, obviously, had any running with the McLarens. So I had no idea how strong they were earlier on in the stint, or in the race.

“And it wasn’t until that moment that I started to see some of their strengths and see them get stronger and stronger over the laps. So I threw it up the inside and I tried to get past. But we have a little bit more drag down the straights and then through the high speed, as I said, as he [Norris] mentioned, that’s where they were just murdering us.”

The seven-time World Champion said the battle was great fun and that he would have liked it to have lasted longer. He also added that he hopes to have more fights with Norris in the future:

“So difficult, but it was fun for those first few laps. I wish we could have stayed in that close battle for many more laps, but it wasn’t meant to be. I look forward to hopefully having some more of those battles in the future,” Hamilton concluded.