‘Do not write off Mercedes’

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MON­TREAL: For­mula One world cham­pi­ons Mercedes say they are now the un­der­dogs to Fer­rari in this year’s ti­tle race but Nigel Mansell is tak­ing that with a pinch of salt.

The 1992 world cham­pion, who won his ti­tle with Wil­liams but was loved by the Fer­rari fans as ‘Il Leone’ (The Lion) dur­ing his ear­lier time at Maranello, said he was scep­ti­cal of the claim.

“That’s rhetoric. I don’t be­lieve they’re un­der­dogs,” said the 63-year-old Bri­ton, who was speak­ing be­fore be­ing in­ducted into the Mo­tor Sport Mag­a­zine Hall of Fame at a gala din­ner on Wed­nes­day. “I think they are very close.” Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel has won three of the six races so far, with clos­est ri­val Lewis Hamil­ton 25 points be­hind af­ter two vic­to­ries. Fin­land’s Valt­teri Bot­tas has also won for Mercedes.

Mercedes have won the last three driv­ers’ and con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships with­out con­ced­ing more than three races in any of those sea­sons.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said af­ter Fer­rari fin­ished one-two in Monaco last month that the cham­pi­ons were now un­der­dogs and revisited the theme ahead of this week­end’s Cana­dian Grand Prix.

“It’s painful, but we are not the favourites for this year’s cham­pi­onship. At the mo­ment it’s Fer­rari,” said the Aus­trian in a race pre­view.

Mansell said that Fer­rari had done “an ab­so­lutely out­stand­ing job through the win­ter to come out and chal­lenge Mercedes like they have” and was de­lighted for his old team.

“But now it’s go­ing to be a race on de­vel­op­ment, what­ever man­u­fac­turer de­vel­ops at a faster rate will ul­ti­mately win the world cham­pi­onship,” he added.

The Bri­ton tipped Mercedes to work through their is­sues and said triple world cham­pion Hamil­ton re­mained “a class act” who was light­ning quick and would be in con­tention right to the end pro­vid­ing re­li­a­bil­ity held up.

“What Lewis has got to do when things are not quite right is get the best he can pos­si­bly out of him­self and the team,” he said.

“But Lewis still can win the cham­pi­onship this year, it’s go­ing to be very close be­tween them,” added Mansell, de­scrib­ing Bot­tas as a clear num­ber two de­spite do­ing a great job since join­ing in Jan­uary as re­place­ment for re­tired cham­pion Nico Ros­berg.

Mansell also spared a thought for Honda, McLaren’s be­lea­guered en­gine part­ners, af­ter com­ments by the team’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Zak Brown cast­ing doubt on the fu­ture of the part­ner­ship.

“I’d sug­gest prob­a­bly some­thing has got to change,” said Mansell, who won races in Honda-en­gined cars at Wil­liams. “And fast. And hope­fully it can change where McLaren and Honda get it right to­gether.

“They should now be com­pet­ing for the wins and the world cham­pi­onship. And sadly, for what­ever rea­son best known to them, it’s not hap­pen­ing.” – Reuters

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