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Pull the other one Toto

NEWS STORY
13/09/2016

Over the years, only one F1 team has taken a stance in terms of race previews.

At one time Ferrari, like its rivals, would issue its bulletin a few days before the race, the drivers praising the circuit and the fans, while the team boss talked up the previous race and looked ahead with total positivity to the next. We were also regularly warned that overtaking was not possible.

The race previews continue, and while some take the Kimi Raikkonen approach and opt in favour of brevity, others take the War and Peace route, providing so much information that it would take the full 78 minutes needed to complete the Italian Grand Prix at Monza to read and digest.

But what to do if you are odds-on to win, indeed odds-on to finish first and second?

Well, you take the Mercedes approach and play down your chances, almost portraying yourself as the underdog.

"We're realistic with ourselves," said Toto Wolff ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, in which his drivers finished first and second. "We know we won't win every race and every Championship. But we want to be up there fighting for it every year and putting on a great show, so that's the target."

"We may have made a solid start - but at this stage it's about collecting points without looking too much at the Championship," said the Austrian in advance of the Russian Grand Prix, his team's second 1-2 of the year. "We are just three races down with eighteen still to go. I have no doubt that we will see a close fight on all fronts right up to the end of the season."

There was no preview for Silverstone, perhaps Toto knew that while his drivers were to finish first and second, Nico Rosberg would be demoted to third after being given a time penalty for receiving radio assistance. Nonetheless, he was 'at it' again in time for Hungary...

"It was a special day, bringing home a 1-2 finish in front of our friends and colleagues from Brackley and Brixworth," he said, reflecting on Silverstone. "Now, we face a very different challenge in Budapest. This circuit has not been kind to us over the past two years and it plays to the strengths of our rivals. The Red Bull, for example, is a car that functions well where high drag isn't penalised as much as at other types of circuit. So, in wet conditions and at low-speed circuits such as the Hungaroring, they are a major threat. We will need to be flawless to come out on top at this track."

Needless to say, despite the fact the circuit had not previously been kind, this year Mercedes stormed to its third 1-2 of the season.

Admittedly, Toto played it down for Monza, a circuit where it was known nobody would be able to touch the silvers cars.

For this weekend's race in Singapore however, anxiety levels are high, the team recalling the nightmare that was 2015.

"We go to Singapore with a big challenge ahead of us. No team has ever scored a 1-2 finish there - and with good reason. As we have seen before, it's a race where a single problem can cascade into many more as the weekend progresses. We have to optimise everything to get a solid result. We didn't manage it last year and, although we believe we now understand why, only performance on the racetrack can prove our conclusions right.

"Ferrari were mighty around this circuit last year and it will suit the high downforce design philosophy followed by Red Bull, so we must not make the mistake of thinking we are favourites this weekend."

Last year was indeed woeful for Mercedes, but looking ahead, Ferrari hasn't even hinted at being "mighty" anywhere this year, and we see nothing that indicates that's about to change.

Singapore will suit Red Bull, no doubt about it, and the only team other than Mercedes to win a race this year must fancy its chances.

However, quite how much of the media has swallowed Toto's claim that the silver cars are not favourites is beyond belief.

Though we do not expect Mr Wolff to admit that he expects to see both his drivers on the podium come Sunday afternoon, having left their rivals for dust, is it too much to ask to stop hinting at underdog status. For while the team has 'only' scored four 1-2s thus far in 2016, compared to eight at the same stage last season, we really don't believe its dominance is under threat any time soon.

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1. Posted by jackois, 13/09/2016 11:21

"'However, quite how much of the media has swallowed Toto's claim that the silver cars are not favourites is beyond belief.'

Bearing in mind, most modern journalists spend most of their time copying & pasting press releases and calling them an article, it doesn't surprise me. I also think that the only way they won't win every race of the season will be because they've taken each other out."

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