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Mercedes no longer the favorite in F1, Wolff says

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Mercedes is no longer the favorite in Formula One, and that is something the team needs to get used to.

The Silver Arrows head into this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix after a dire performance at last month’s Monaco GP. Valtteri Bottas finished fourth while three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton only managed seventh.

Worse still, Ferrari finished 1-2 with Sebastian Vettel beating Kimi Raikkonen. After six races, Mercedes trails Ferrari in the drivers’ and constructors’ championships – a big change after three years of total Mercedes dominance.

“Historic success doesn’t translate into current performance,” said Toto Wolff, the head of motorsport at Mercedes. “We have to fight with all that we are worth for every single win, pole position, podium finish and every point. You can no longer expect that, when you look at a timesheet, the two Mercedes will be right at the top.”

Hamilton headed into this season chasing a fourth title. But the British driver trails four-time F1 champion Vettel by 25 points, and with a less reliable car than the German’s slick Ferrari. Hamilton also failed to get on the podium at the Russian GP, finishing fourth.

“It’s painful, but we are not the favorites for this year’s championship. At the moment it’s Ferrari,” Wolff said Tuesday. “They have a very strong package and we need to rise to the challenge to prove once again that we are the team to beat.”

While the Ferrari is cruising, the inconsistent Mercedes is struggling to find the right balance between front and rear axle. That remains an ongoing worry and also impacts on tire strategy. Mercedes botched their tire choices in Monaco practice, leading to a very difficult qualifying session.

“Everybody at the factories is working absolutely flat out to assess the current difficulties we are facing,” Wolff said. “Some of these fixes will be short term, others may take longer.”

Mercedes hardly needs further glitches in Montreal. It is a demanding track made up of high-speed straights and tight corners, where drivers slam on the brakes for nearly 20 percent of the race.

“It could be a tricky race for us in terms of the layout of the track,” Wolff said. “But, equally, it’s a circuit that suits both of our drivers. Lewis has won a number of times in the past.”

Hamilton has won the two previous races in Canada driving for Mercedes, and in 2007, ’10 and ’12 driving for McLaren.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.