Mercedes: 2018 battle with Ferrari and Red Bull has 'already begun'

8 November 2017, 11:51

Mercedes insist there will be "no backing off" in the final two races of the season despite securing both championships, and believe the battle for 2018 supremacy with Ferrari and Red Bull has already begun.

Lewis Hamilton's ninth-place finish in Mexico secured the Silver Arrows a 'quadruple double' - 2017 was the fourth consecutive campaign in which they have won both the drivers' and constructors' titles - and the team would be forgiven for relaxing ahead of the closing Brazilian and Abu Dhabi GPs.

But Toto Wolff says the final chapter of a fascinating and hard-fought season is crucial as the team look to push on next year, when Ferrari and Red Bull are expected to battle Mercedes again.

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"It might be tempting to think that, with both championships now secure, the pressure is off for the two remaining races of 2017," the Mercedes team boss explained. "But that couldn't be further from the truth.

"Inside the team, we are looking at the next two race weekends as the first two Grands Prix of 2018. We have two races that we are determined to win in order to take that positive momentum into the winter.

"There will be no backing off just because the championship business is now done."

While Mercedes have wrapped up both titles with two rounds to spare, they have been pushed much closer by their rivals in 2017. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel led the Drivers' Championship for the majority of the year before reliability woes struck, while Red Bull and Max Verstappen have won two out of the last four races.

And Wolff, who is already setting his sights on 2018 pre-season testing, added: "As recent rounds have shown, winning Grands Prix is never easy.

"Red Bull have taken two victories in the past four races and, although we have claimed the other two, Ferrari remain formidable opponents.

"With the championship now settled, the battle for 2018 has already begun."

Mercedes to trial new concepts in "intense" practice programme
This weekend's Brazilian GP offers a chance for newly-crowned four-time world champion Hamilton to build on his first career Interlagos victory in 2016, while Valtteri Bottas is also seeking much-needed momentum at the end of the year.

"Lewis is operating at the peak of his powers right now, and will be determined to add another victory to last year's success," said Wolff. "Valtteri made a promising step forward in Mexico and will aim to build from this at Interlagos."

But the final two races also gives Mercedes a chance to experiment with 2018 parts, with the team adding that they will be trialling "new and interesting concepts" during "intense" Friday practice programmes.

"The final two Grands Prix thus present the first two test opportunities ahead of the new season, trialling new and interesting concepts that the competitive landscape on track simply didn't allow for earlier in the year," they claimed.

"The team can become a little bolder. Mercedes will be running a series of experiments over the final two Fridays - with the option for race day, too, if the team feels that the risk connected with any idea is manageable and there is valuable learning for 2018 and beyond."

The 2017 title race may be over, but the racing definitely isn't! Get set for Mercedes v Ferrari v Red Bull in the Brazilian GP LIVE ONLY on Sky Sports F1. The race begins at 4pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!