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Motorsport | Formula 1

Toto Wolff © Gallo Images

Mercedes target extending reign in Spain



Not content with winning all four races this year, the outstanding Mercedes team head to this week's Spanish Grand Prix seeking to extend their advantage over the rest of the field.

Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg have dominated in Australia, Malaysia, Bahrain and China with Hamilton winning the last three in succession following Rosberg's success in Melbourne.

But that – and the prospect of continued successes – is not enough for Mercedes whose motorsport boss Toto Wolff has called for a much greater effort in a bid to press home their advantage.

As the Formula One circus prepares to race in Europe for the first time this year, every team will arrive at the Circuit de Catalunya with upgraded cars carrying revised parts – thus turning the start of the "European season" into a new beginning.

"We know our rivals are going to be relentless in their effort to close the gap on us so our aim is to increase the advantage we enjoyed at the last race, in China," said Wolff.

"As a team, it is up to us to rise to the challenge – to take that relentless mentality to an even greater extent than those around us. If we are to build a sustained level of success in this sport, any small advantage must be seen as a platform upon which to build a bigger advantage."

Having seen how Red Bull's consummate superiority has been overturned, Wolff is fully aware of the frailty of any level of advantage in Formula One.

He said he has long believed that Mercedes' advantage at the front of the field is not as great as some have suggested and warned that the German manufacturer's dominance could come to a swift end unless it keeps pushing.

"I believe that this is an exceptional run and you cannot take it for granted," he said.

"In a couple of years, we will be looking back and saying that was really great – four races in a row and three doubles in a row.

"But we have to keep our feet on the ground, and concentrate on developing the car further. We saw in China that our rivals were strong in some stints and we have to analyse that.

"We don't want to be caught on the back foot. So the kind of spirit we are trying to maintain is that we are not having a comfortable lead, but we are fighting to stay on top."

As Mercedes plan to stay on top, McLaren are battling to regain their competitiveness after a strong opening race in Australia was followed by a dip in form.

Racing director Eric Boullier and chief executive Jonathan Neale have reviewed the team's operations and reacted with a raft of new signings.

These have included aerodynamicists Tony Salter from Sauber and Guillaume Cattelani from Lotus ahead of the arrival next year of a new 'aero' chief in Peter Prodromou.

Boullier is convinced the changes will reap dividends.

"McLaren is composed of brilliant individuals, they have been winning many races and have been fighting for championships," he said.

"I think it is just to make sure that the same people are working together in one way with strong leadership, strong guidance and at least it will help them to recover their past success."

The prospect of McLaren continuing to struggle in the doldrums 20 years on from the death of Ayrton Senna signals the extent of the changes in the sport since 1994.

Modern and safer circuits, quieter engines and a more corporate involvement are only three of the discernible differences in a sport that remains awash with money, fiercely competitive and technically progressive.

Yet the supremacy of Mercedes and the intra-team scrap between Hamilton and Rosberg has echoes of McLaren's experiences with Senna and Alain Prost in an age when the racing, the purest part of the sport, could rise and thrill audiences all over the world.

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