Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff says he was convinced both cars would overtake the two McLarens during the closing stages of Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

McLaren was set for a double podium at Silverstone until a Safety Car on Lap 34 allowed Lewis Hamilton to make his sole pit stop and retain third ahead of Oscar Piastri, who had already pitted earlier in the race.

Despite being on the Soft tyre up against Lando Norris on the Hard compound, Hamilton could not successfully overtake the McLaren, eventually settling for third.

Meanwhile, George Russell had also stopped before the intervention of the Safety Car and finished fifth after failing to apply much pressure to Piastri in the closing stages.

Wolff has revealed that the disparity in tyre compounds between the two sides left him thinking Mercedes would end the afternoon with both drivers on the podium.

“To be honest when the Safety Car was deployed I was pretty sure, if not convinced, that we would be eating up the McLarens and finish with a P2 and P3, or maybe even challenge up the road,” he said. “So you see just how strong their car was.

“We could have had a go in the first few laps, but they both raced a very strong hand and with their efficiency and top speed through the high-speed corners and on the straights there was just no way in passing them. So that came as a surprise.”

Mercedes arrived at Silverstone hoping to be in competitive shape on a high-speed circuit that, on paper, played favourably to the strengths of its W14 package.

The German marque had won seven of the previous eight British GPs and enjoyed one of its weekend better performances during a tough 2022 campaign last year.

But after struggling on Friday, Russell and Hamilton could only wound up sixth and seventh in qualifying respectively.

“I think overall the car was not where we’ve seen it at Silverstone the last few years,” Wolff conceded.

“That was the track where we were really dominant and strong and the high speed was not good at all, compared to our competitors in qualifying we were also struggling with traction on the exits.”

He added: “Overall, the car remains to be a handful.”

Lando Norris (GBR) McLaren and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 09.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 11, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race Day.

McLaren has had the measure of Mercedes in the past two rounds since introducing its new-spec car at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Woking outfit’s resurgence comes after Aston Martin recovered from a torrid 2022 to begin the current season with six podium finishes in the first eight races.

Wolff believes the huge strides made by its two customer teams in recent times provide positives to a Mercedes side that still harbours ambitions of catching Red Bull.

“I think we are keeping them [the rest] in second position,” he contended. “And whoever has performances that are track-specific, or due to an upgrade, they are able to just stay there at least.

“Now we have the resurgence of McLaren, who were not competitive at the beginning of the year and that’s good to see. Because that means if you are taking the right decisions your car can jump up by a huge amount.

“On the other side, I don’t know what happened to Aston Martin and Ferrari, they made a step backwards.

“But overall, I think this result is no more than solid. I am happy for Lewis’ podium, and both drivers drove to the maximum of the car. P3 and P5 is okay, but no more than solid.”

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