Should Lewis Hamilton beat Max Verstappen to this year’s title, Toto Wolff should probably thank Red Bull as they “woke up the lion” in Brazil.
Last time out at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Hamilton had a weekend where just about everything – except his pace – went against him.
The reigning World Champion was excluded from Friday’s qualifying after his rear wing’s DRS gap was found to be more than the permitted 85mm, something the FIA found as they looked at the wing after qualifying reportedly on the behest of Red Bull.
Instead of allowing Mercedes to fix the wing, which had two loose screws, Hamilton started the Saturday sprint qualifying at the very back of the grid. In sharp contrast, Red Bull were given the go-ahead to making running repairs to Verstappen’s wing.
Fast forward to the race and Hamilton had to pass Verstappen to take the lead with the Dutchman cleared by the stewards despite his controversial defending against his title rival.
Hamilton took the win, narrowed his deficit in the championship to 14 points and then followed that up with a flawless display around the Losail circuit this past weekend to take the Qatar GP win.
Wolff reckons the Brazil weekend, one in which many feel Hamilton had a right to feel aggrieved, re-ignited his fire.
“He’s totally in the zone,” he told Sky F1. “They woke up the lion at Interlagos on that Saturday and you see that.”
A great win for our first time in Qatar. #TEAMLH you keep us going, we keep pushing and we feel your energy more than ever. It’s been one hell of a year but I love this battle. Getting right back to work, focused and ready for the final two races. We win & we lose together. pic.twitter.com/sGHFwBcV8c
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 21, 2021
Hamilton left Qatar eight points behind Verstappen, who was runner-up under the lights on Sunday.
His team boss says such has been the battle this season that whether the title returns to Brackley or heads to Milton Keynes, the driver who wins this title deserves it.
“We just had a chat walking back from the podium,” Wolff said. “If you would have told us it will go to Saudi Arabia or the end of the season, we would have taken that.
“I think we started on the back foot, we just weren’t good enough, the regulations didn’t go our way and you have to take it on the chin.
“Therefore whoever wins the championship merits to win the championship.
“It would cost me maybe a sleepless night, maybe two, it would be annoying, but we could take it – it’s not the end of the world. We would come back strong next season and the seasons to come.”
But while momentum is now with Hamilton, two emphatic wins on the trot, Wolff has rubbished any suggest that Mercedes are now in control.
“I wish,” he said. “I really enjoy the ride because it’s good fun really when it’s so tough. This is exactly why we are in this sport and I enjoy every minute.”
Hamilton's commanding win at the Qatar Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton narrowed Max Verstappen's title lead to eight points with victory in Qatar.