January 4, 2019 / 4:52 PM / 15 days ago

Records in focus after serial success, says Mercedes F1 boss

LONDON (Reuters) - Everyone loves an underdog but Mercedes believe Formula One fans will still have plenty to cheer about next season even if the reigning champions dominate for a record-chasing sixth successive year.

FILE PHOTO: Formula 1 Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team chief Toto Wolff attends FIA news conference in St. Petersburg, Russia December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo

Mercedes have won both titles ever since the V6 turbo hybrid era started in 2014, with Britain’s Lewis Hamilton now a five times champion.

Hamilton has won 51 of the 100 races over that period, and only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers have stood on top of the podium.

“I think it is in the nature of the fan that you cheer for the underdog,” team boss and Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff told Reuters in a recent interview. “Serial winners lose a little bit of appeal.

“What we are trying to do is to approach our sport and our participation with modesty and humility, not take anything for granted...we should never ever have a feeling of entitlement of winning.

“You can, to a certain degree, if you stay true to these values continue to grow your fan following and continue to have the fans cheering for you although you have won a few times in a row,” added the Austrian.

Last year, in which Mercedes presented themselves as underdogs to Ferrari for the first part of the F1 season, proved the best yet for the German manufacturer across the various motorsport series.

They won the German Touring Car (DTM) championship and Formula Two with protege George Russell, while Michael Schumacher’s son Mick took the European F3 crown for a Mercedes-powered team.

Hamilton won 11 races and is now only 18 wins behind Schumacher’s record 91, with a chance also of equalling eventually the German’s seven world championships.

Wolff said such team targets would provide plenty of interest.

“You will have two groups; the ones that are cheering for our competitors, hoping that Mercedes are not going to achieve that, and then you will have a large group also that’s going to say ‘well, this is pretty exciting.

“‘Are Mercedes going to be able to top Ferrari’s record? is Lewis Hamilton going to be able to match Michael Schumacher’s record?’,” he added. “It’s another interesting angle of the Formula One narrative.”

Only Ferrari and Mercedes have won drivers’ and constructors’ championships for five years in a row, with the Italians winning the team title six times in succession from 1999 to 2004.

“We are very motivated by having equalled the Ferrari all-time record of five consecutive double championships and there’s a sixth one that is there,” said Wolff.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Brazilian Grand Prix - Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil - November 11, 2018 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas, Executive Director Toto Wolff and team members pose after winning the constructors championship REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes/File Photo

The Austrian said discussions were ongoing with all staff to set team and personal objectives and that would continue until the end of January.

“This is a very honest, intimate and personal discussion that we are having among staff,” he said. “It means trusting each other and laying out the struggles and the good sides of what we do.”

The season starts in Australia on March 17.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis

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