Mercedes insist they will not bow to Hamilton’s demands for car upgrades

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team will not cede to their driver’s demands for swift action after the world champion was soundly defeated by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the Styrian Grand Prix. Hamilton warned that unless his team delivered upgrades to his car more defeats would inevitably follow, ending his hopes of securing an eighth world championship this season.

The Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff insisted, however, that the team will stick to their strategy of not putting resources into this year’s car but was optimistic the fight was far from over. Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner said he felt that now was the time to “turn the screw” on Mercedes.

Verstappen won at Red Bull Ring with a completely dominant run from pole to flag, against which Hamilton was powerless. Afterwards Hamilton said that without upgrades to the Mercedes car the result would simply be repeated as the pace of the red Bull was impossible to match.

However Mercedes’s focus has already shifted to developing the 2022 model which is being built to new regulations and under the constraints of the budget cap, and Wolff said: “We have new regulations not only for next year but for years to come. You’ve got to choose the right balance. It would make no sense to put a week or two, a month back on the current car, because the gains wouldn’t be anywhere near the gains we are making on the 2022 car.”

Wolff also insisted that no amount of aerodynamic upgrades would close the gap he believes was imposed by the regulation changes introduced for this season. They were designed to slow the cars but have hit Mercedes particularly hard and Hamilton has suggested they were a deliberate attempt to peg back his team.

Horner, meanwhile, was sceptical Mercedes would not react to Hamilton’s misgivings, continuing the tit for tat verbal sparring that has characterised the two teams’ relationship thus far in 2021.

“We know that Toto likes to throw the light somewhere else,” he said. “So I can’t believe that they’ll go through the rest of this year without putting a single component on the car. Max is driving with great maturity and consistency and we’ve just got to keep turning the screw.”

Hamilton has yet to sign a new contract with Mercedes for next season but Wolff maintained his driver was on board with their plans and that his team could still bring more to their car as they optimise its set-up and Red Bull shift resources to their 2022 car.

“The driver will always fight with everything he has,” said Wolff. “We’ve had the chat [on car development] before and as a matter of fact, it’s a very rational decision. The upgrades you bring wouldn’t close the aerodynamic deficit of the magnitude that these new aero regulations cost us. Fact.

“They [Red Bull] will stop aero development at a certain stage. So the fight is still full on. That wasn’t our best circuit in the past, and it wasn’t on Sunday but doesn’t mean that we have no weapons in our armoury left.”

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