Wolff predictably denies Mercedes are favourites in Austria, tips midfield 'surprises'

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A new Formula 1 season but same old Toto Wolff as the Mercedes boss has predictably denied his team are favourites at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Despite dominantly taking six consecutive double championships since 2014, Toto is well-known for downplaying expectations for the Brackley-based outfit.

This time, however, he may have a point as Mercedes have a poor recent record in Spielberg, having not won there since 2017, instead, it's Red Bull and Max Verstappen who have claimed victory at the company's home race.

Still, the German manufacturer did appear to have an advantage over the field in pre-season but with four months having past since then, Wolff doesn't think it will be of any significance.

“I think it’s always a risk to assume that what you see in testing is going to be the performance in track,” he told the F1 Nation podcast. “If you look back to 2019 and then what happened in Australia, it was totally different.

Max Verstappen Red Bull Raving Honda - 2019 Austrian GP winner

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“So we were travelling to Australia [this year] not expecting an easy run there, but expecting quite some competition. You could also see the eagerness of some within the room to race because they felt they had a great car.

“In that respect I have no doubt it will be the usual suspects," he added, referring to Ferrari and Red Bull.

"Maybe with some surprises – I think that Racing Point has a very strong car and had been showing promising lap times in Barcelona. I have no doubt that McLaren and Renault will play a role.

“So just wait and see. I’m always one on the careful side. I think we will have a first indication on Saturday afternoon at 3pm, and then on Sunday we shall see who has been able to have the best package.”

On a personal note, Wolff described the past few months as "surreal" after being away from the "fast-paced environment" of F1 for so long.

Still, the sport he and everyone will return to shall be very different from the one that tried to operate in Australia, but the Austrian is confident the unique atmosphere won't dominate the weekend.

“I think we know what to do, I think we know that protecting our staff and everybody who attends is the main priority,” he said.

“But equally, it’s new ground, we’ve never been in this situation. We’re talking a lot about bubbles, less interaction with the other teams, you guys [the media] and the fans, and that will be a new experience.

“F1 has always been able to take out the positives, and if we’re able to provide a great show on Saturday and Sunday I think that’s going to compensate for the weirdness.”