Toto Wolff warns Lewis Hamilton and George Russell about Max Verstappen

Mercedes have had a change in fortunes, with P2 and P3 in qualifying at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

Having surprised the paddock in Australia with a comeback around Albert Park, Mercedes finds itself in a front row fight against the Red Bull of Max Verstappen 

George Russell qualified just 0.23 seconds behind the Dutchman, while Lewis Hamilton was close behind in P3, holding off the charging Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

“Good job… Coming back slowly but surely,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said as his drivers crossed the finish line in qualifying.

“We just got it together over the weekend. We just grinded away,” he told Sky Sports, explaining how his team has soared into contention.

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“I think we learned through the session. We’ve been open minded. We changed the plan,” he added.

However, despite the strong qualifying performance, Wolff resisted suggesting the team has a shot at victory in Australia, praising Verstappen’s dominance during the season.

“Verstappen is a league of his own,” Wolff said, adding that his team will simply “try to make the best” of their position on the grid.

Heading to Melbourne, Mercedes had been hoping for a comeback, as the team fights for second place in the Constructors’ Championship against Aston Martin.

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With a potential lap one battle between the British drivers, Wolff was cautious to say that there is “nothing” between the pair, suggesting Mercedes might allow them to fight for position, rather than have team decide the pecking order.

While the gap between Mercedes and Red Bull does appear to have narrowed in Australia, the Silver Arrows still risk falling behind Verstappen if he gets a good start when the lights go green.

That could leave Mercedes turning the grand prix into a battle to retain P2 and P3, holding Alonso back, as the Spaniard seeks a third consecutive podium position for the first time in nearly 10 years.