Mercedes and Ferrari are only separated by four points ahead of F1’s season finale next weekend in Abu Dhabi, but Toto Wolff is looking forward to his team’s showdown with the Scuderia.
Although marred by Carlos Sainz’s on-track encounter in Las Vegas with a water valve cover on Thursday, Ferrari displayed a solid pace all weekend, with poleman Charles Leclerc coming close to winning F1’s Saturday night battle in the streets of Sin City.
For Mercedes however, the chips didn’t fall the right way, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell concluding their day just seventh and eighth.
"Lewis got hit twice and George had a mistake. That race summarises our season," rued a frustrated Wolff.
"A quick car that is able to fight for a podium. Lewis was doing [Charles] Leclerc’s times as well in free air. But then obviously he was involved in two accidents, and then George with Max, [so] you can’t win, you can’t be in the front."
Overall, the Brackley squad was outscored in Vegas by its Maranello rival by 16 points, which allowed the latter to close in within four points of the runner-up spot in F1’s Constructors’ standings.
It now all boils down to a straight fight between the two teams in Abu Dhabi.
"We're going there on pretty much equal points, we have a proper race director, so that should be fine," Wolff said, with a veiled reference to the 2021 controversial shootout in Yas Marina between Hamilton and Max Verstappen.
"Then let's race, it's all down to the last weekend.
"[Ferrari] are very quick, they've done a good job, I think we could have been on par [in Las Vegas], but the result shows something different so let's race.”
Wolff admitted that after a season in which Mercedes’ under-performed its expectations once again, fighting for P2 isn’t a proposition that particularly revs up the Austrian.
"To be honest it's good to have P2 as a positive to finish the season, but P2 or P3 doesn't make me particularly cheer anyway,” he said.
After last weekend’s extravaganza in Las Vegas, F1 teams packed their crates through the night before embarking on the long 15-hour trek to Abu Dhabi where they will wrap up their 2023 campaign.
But F1’s grueling schedule will get even worse in 2024, as Las Vegas will form the first leg of an arduous final triple-header that will take them from Nevada directly to Qatar and then to Abu Dhabi.
"Now we're on a roll in complete autopilot," commented Wolff.
"You don't know anyway where you're waking up, on what timezone you are and where the toilet is in a hotel room. Let's just get it done!"