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Other SportsJapanese Grand Prix 2024: Wolff says Verstappen won't be caught as 'atrocious'...

Japanese Grand Prix 2024: Wolff says Verstappen won’t be caught as ‘atrocious’ start costs Mercedes

Toto Wolff acknowledged no driver on the grid will be able to match Max Verstappen this season, after an “atrocious” first stint cost Mercedes at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen made it three wins from four races this year at Suzuka on Sunday, beating team-mate Sergio Perez by more than 12 seconds as Red Bull managed their third one-two of 2024.

A fourth straight world championship now looks inevitable for the Dutchman, who sits 13 points clear of Perez and 18 ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc at the top of the drivers’ standings.

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Wolff does not believe any driver is capable of mounting a consistent challenge to Verstappen’s dominance, saying: “No-one is going to catch Max this year.

“His driving and the car are just spectacular. You can see it by the way he manages the tyres. This season is about being the best of the rest. That is the fight that is on.”

Mercedes team principal Wolff has come under fierce pressure amid the team’s struggles with their W15 car this season, and they were well off the pace again in Japan.

George Russell finished seventh while Lewis Hamilton came in ninth, with the seven-time world champion letting his team-mate pass him on lap 14 as they traded starting positions, having suffered early damage to his car.

Both Mercedes appeared to struggle on the hard tyres early on, and Wolff accepted that had cost them.

“We ended up where we started,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “It was just very difficult.

“We had a second that was super quick and we would have been racing for the podium but we had an atrocious first stint. We need to find out what it was. Was it too hot? Were we overmanaging?”

However, Wolff does believe Mercedes have made positive steps in response to their awful showing at the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, when neither Russell nor Hamilton finished.

“I think it’s much better than it looks with the final result. Also in qualifying, there is lots that we learned. It’s going to get better from here,” Wolff insisted.

“We need to be quick on all circuits. There’s no excuse with temperatures or track layouts. We have to sort it out.

“This is live testing for us. We have changed things massively and this is reflected in the result. The car is becoming quicker.”

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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