Mercedes heads to Canada in good shape, but Wolff remains wary

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff is looking forward to next weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with the circuit expected to suit the W05 hybrid car.

However, he remains concerned by the prospect of this dominant streak coming to an end at any time, and even revealed that the team considered itself to be the underdog in Monaco. Nevertheless, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton still delivered a fifth straight one-two finish in the race on Sunday.

“We are pleased to head to Canada on the back of another strong weekend in Monaco,” he explained. “We went into that race convinced that our rivals could outperform us and that’s how we worked to prepare for the weekend: like we were the underdogs.

“So we were pleased to see that we still had a good advantage at the front of the field. The team is operating at a very high level right now but we need to keep the ball flat, stay humble and keep pushing.”

Thanks to the high-speed nature of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Mercedes should enjoy a big advantage thanks to its superior straight line speed and power unit. However, Wolff is refusing to make any assumptions ahead of next weekend’s race.

“On paper, you might say that Canada is the kind of circuit that should suit our package,” he admitted. “But we don’t have a crystal ball and we have been bitten by that way of thinking in the past.

“We know that our rivals are getting closer and that we will need to extract every bit of potential to deliver a strong performance in Montreal.

“Lewis has a fantastic track record in Canada, Nico has the momentum from his win in Monaco. We are all looking forward to the next chapter in the story of this season.”

Having scored 240 points from a possible 258, Mercedes has enjoyed one of the most dominant starts to a season in the history of the sport. Now, all eyes will be on Hamilton and Rosberg in Canada to see if their clear the air talks have truly been successful.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”