Toto Wolff is not willing to admit that Mercedes are favourites to take victory at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix. In the last two races at Singapore and Malaysia, the Silver Arrows has struggled for pace, causing the team to become worried about the slump.
While it was expected that the Singapore circuit wouldn't suit the Mercedes package, the lack of speed at Malaysia caught the team by surprise. Red Bull's Max Verstappen managed to go on and claim his second career victory. With Ferrari incurring problems during qualifying and the race, Mercedes managed to increase its lead in the standings despite having arguably the third quickest car.
"In sport, it's in the tough times that you really see the strength of a team. Our championships in the past three years have come because we have never taken success for granted and, even in the good times, we were able to put our finger in the wound and work on our weaknesses. After Malaysia, we have found ourselves doing the same: analysing our problems, beginning to understand their causes and working on solutions.
"Lewis has made the most of every opportunity in recent weeks; he has been in fantastic form, particularly since the summer break, and is driving with a perfect balance of aggression right now. It has been a more challenging picture for Valtteri and it is a priority for us to give him the car he needs to perform - and to help him extract everything from it. It is not an easy time right now but this is the time for his strength of character, work ethic and natural talent to shine through."
The sixteenth round of the 2017 championship takes place this weekend at Japan, a track that Mercedes has dominated in the hybrid era. Since 2014, the Silver Arrows has won every race at Suzuka, while also locking out the front row on each occasion.
However, Wolff has stated that former success doesn't guarantee future results: "The next challenge comes in the form of Suzuka, a circuit which will ask very different questions of our car than Sepang. In the last years, we have performed very strongly there.
"But recent weeks have reminded us that historic form counts for little with these 2017 cars and tyres. It is a circuit which rewards Grand Prix cars and drivers performing at their very best - and we expect a very close fight between ourselves, Ferrari and Red Bull. As a team, our targets for the final quarter of the season are very clear. It is entirely in our hands to make sure we achieve them."
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