Toto Wolff reveals if Mercedes can fight for wins as he comments on ‘dominant force’ Charles Leclerc

Sir Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of George Russell in Budapest before the summer break.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff does not take his team’s display at the Hungarian Grand Prix to mean that his side are back in the title picture.

George Russell took a stunning pole position in qualifying, while Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was eliminated in Q2, before Max Verstappen suffered a power issue in Q3, leaving them to start 11th and 10th respectively.

Carlos thought he had gained Ferrari’s ninth pole of the year, only to be denied by the 24-year-old, whose team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton ended up P7 after his DRS failed on the final run.

Charles Leclerc passed Sainz in the first pit stop phase, before overtaking Russell in the second stint to take the lead, and he was beginning to pull away.

The Briton was doing a splendid job of keeping Sainz behind though, and the 27-year-old was struggling to get to within striking distance of the Mercedes, allowing Verstappen to creep up on them having recovered to fourth.

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The Dutchman made his second stop having initially pitted early to undercut Hamilton, and Ferrari bizarrely responded by bringing Leclerc in from the lead.

The Scuderia did not have any Mediums left, so they put him onto Hards which, on a cold, damp track, was a strategy that had little chance of working.

The Monegasque was passed by Verstappen and Russell, before Hamilton got ahead in the pit stop phases when Ferrari caved and pitted Leclerc again for Softs.

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It all meant that Hamilton has fresh Softs on the car towards the end, and he rocketed past Sainz, before passing Russell for second while the polesitter was running Mediums.

Sainz, however, could not get his tyres to switch on sufficiently, and the pace of the Mercedes was such that Russell continued to hold the Spaniard off, securing the Silver Arrows’ second consecutive double podium finish.

However, Ferrari had their struggles, Perez has been lacking pace in recent rounds – he eventually climbed up to fifth – and Verstappen won the race by nearly 10 seconds, so Mercedes have a way to go yet.

“I think we need to be careful it’s not specific to Budapest that we just landed in the perfect window,” admitted Wolff.

“The other teams, Ferrari especially in qualifying, complained about the tyres not being where they should have been.

READ: Toto Wolff claims Red Bull took a ‘big risk’ with Max Verstappen in Hungary

“So in my personal opinion, we are still lacking to the front-runners.

“You’ve seen Leclerc on the right tyres is still a dominant force, but at least we were in the same race.

“I don’t want to say now suddenly we are right bang into the game and we can win races because I don’t think that’s the case.”

The Austrian highlighted the value of learning from mistakes – a few of which were made by Mercedes before the season started – and reiterated that his team do not currently have the performance to challenge the leading two teams on merit.

“I think we landed it well in Budapest on Saturday and we are reaping the results,” explained Wolff.

“But I don’t think we are close enough to Ferrari and Red Bull to really fight them as yet, but lots of learning and it’s important to get it wrong also.”

Mercedes remain third in the Constructors’ Standings, but they are now just 30 points behind Ferrari, who had to settle for P4 through Sainz, and sixth through Leclerc in Budapest.