Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has insisted he has not got a target on his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner after Max Verstappen secured pole position for the French Grand Prix.
Wolff and Mercedes have dominated F1 since 2014 but Verstappen's championship lead coupled with a breathtaking qualifying performance at Paul Ricard has put his team firmly on the front foot in the title race.
In a season where a war of words has broken out between Wolff and Horner, the Austrian hailed the battle at the front of the grid and revealed his team was relishing the challenge.
"I think it is fantastic that it has been thrown at us," he told Sky Sports F1. "No year has ever felt easy but this one is just a new level and it is awesome."
When put to him by former driver Nico Rosberg that he enjoyed having a target to aim at and therefore Horner was "making it easy" for Wolff, he replied: "Everyone has their target but Christian is not my target, there are other people."
Mercedes looking at all areas to improve performance
Despite Valtteri Bottas topping the first session of the weekend on Friday, Red Bull has since looked imperious with Verstappen steering the RB16B to scintillating lap times.
"[It has been] a difficult weekend because we are just lacking pace," Wolff explained.
"That's the truth. It looked much worse than at the end we ended up but we just need to gain everywhere. There is not one part we are not looking at to improve our game."
On whether the team was still struggling with overheating the Pirelli tyres, he suggested: "I don't know if it is not the opposite for us because in Q1 and Q2, the second run, the third lap, Lewis was able to go much quicker.
"So of course, it is also heating it up on the out lap but there is something out there."
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