Mercedes stopped developing 2020 car "a long time ago"
Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has revealed his team stopped development on this year's car "a long time ago" in order to focus on next season's W12.
While other teams appear to be continuously bringing upgrades to their cars for this season, Mercedes has opted to call a halt to progress on the W11.
It explains why Red Bull's Max Verstappen was closer than he has been all season to Mercedes in qualifying, and was able to at least keep Valtteri Bottas initially, and then Lewis Hamilton in his sights throughout the race, even if not in a position to attack.
Asked whether his team had finished updates for this year, Wolff replied: "We finished them a long time ago and that has always been in the past what we looked at.
"It is a very thoroughly thought through decision because not every championship you can afford to close the book early.
"But the rules change quite a lot for next year and in that respect, we decided, like in previous years, to look to next year's car and that is why you can see the shift in performance between the teams.
"We always have a very strong start, and in the middle of the season, whoever continues to develop, is very strong at the end."
With six races remaining Mercedes has a 180-point lead over Red Bull in the constructors' standings, with a maximum of 264 available, while Hamilton has a 69-point cushion over Bottas who, in turn, is 14 points ahead of Verstappen.
Wolff, though, remains cautious, adding: "We tend to see this pattern that Red Bull catches up towards the end of the season, and I guess it's good for the championship.
"We are deploying the strategy that is right, balancing next year and this year, and some of that you can see from the results on track.
"But we need to be vigilant and accept the competition will increase over the last few races."
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