Toto: “We cannot afford to relax”

Toto: “We cannot afford to relax”

What are your thoughts on the result in Malaysia?

It doesn’t get any better than a one-two finish. It was also the first for the Silver Arrows in Formula One since 1955, so congratulations to everybody in the team, at Mercedes-Benz and at PETRONAS who worked so hard to make it happen. But we cannot afford to be complacent: we all know that if you stand still in this business, you go backwards. So we will be pushing hard to improve further for Bahrain.

There was quite a gap between the two cars at the end of the race: what would you put that down to?

Just like in Melbourne, Lewis and Nico pushed each other all through the weekend. They actually topped the times in an equal number of sessions across Friday and Saturday. This shows how closely matched they are, even if the gap at the end of the race was quite large. Nico made a terrific start but had a big moment through Turn Three on the first lap. The gap between him and Sebastian during the first part of the race was then not as comfortable as he would have liked, as Nico struggled a little with the rear tyres. But he was competitive enough to hold his position and, when everything settled down in the second half of the race, able to build a gap. It was always going to be tough for him to make up ground on his team-mate from there.

With the two drivers so closely matched, could this present a challenge as the year goes on from a managerial perspective?

Of course, there is rivalry between the drivers. They are competitive creatures by nature and the first person any driver must beat is their team-mate. This is the same within any team. What makes a difference is that these two have known each other for such a long time. They have a fair relationship with each other. What’s important, and what we have made very clear from the beginning, is that they drive for Mercedes and the team always comes first. We will most likely have to deal with this situation at some stage and we have discussed a range of different scenarios. But both Lewis and Nico are intelligent and respectful enough to make the right decisions.

Were you surprised by the reliability of the field given the intense climatic conditions in Malaysia?

When we first arrived for winter testing at Jerez, I think if you had said we would see so few mechanical retirements during the first two races nobody would have believed it. Particularly with 35 degree air and 50 degree track temperatures like we saw at Sepang. But in these situations, you can clearly see that Formula One has the very best people in the world in their field. It’s not completely “business as usual” yet, and every team will still be working very hard to ensure good reliability. But as a sport I’d say we’ve made a pretty smooth transition bearing in mind the scale of change for this year.

Two races in and MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS is leading both Championships: how significant is that in terms of the season as a whole?

It’s a good start but we cannot afford to relax. I don’t by any means want to diminish the work done by the team in Stuttgart, Brackley and Brixworth but any advantage we may have now will not be sustainable to the end of the year without a lot more hard work to come. We’ve seen Red Bull bounce back from testing to push us very hard and that’s a good wake-up call. Today, we tend to forget too quickly what happened yesterday. Here we are, having won two races, and everyone is saying that we are the favourites. But with Red Bull we are still talking about a four-time World Championship winning team. Ferrari and McLaren have multiple titles to their names. The competition is fierce throughout the field and we must continue to push all the way to the flag in Abu Dhabi to stay ahead.

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