Toto Wolff not bothered with ‘guilt or judgement’ over Verstappen clash

Michelle Foster
Toto Wolff smiles. Baku June 2022.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff smiles while being interviewed. Baku June 2022.

Toto Wolff isn’t bothered attributing “guilt or judgement” over Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s clash at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, his only focus Mercedes’ win in the race.

Speaking to the media in the build-up to the Interlagos race, the Mercedes motorsport boss was asked if he had a choice between winning a grand prix or beating Ferrari to the runner-up position in the Constructors’ Championship which he’d prefer.

He said the race win, but he could yet have both.

After 20 races without a single victory on the board, Mercedes claimed two during the course of the the Sao Paulo Grand Prix weekend as George Russell raced his way to P1 in the sprint race with Lewis Hamilton third.

As such Russell started the grand prix from pole position with Hamilton elevated to second after Carlos Sainz was hit with a grid penalty. It was Mercedes’ first front row lock-out of the championship.

At the end of the 71 laps they were again 1-2 with Russell taking the chequered flag ahead of his team-mate.

The seven-time World Champion, though, was made to work for his second-placed finish after an early collision with Max Verstappen saw him drop to seventh.

The stewards ruled Verstappen responsible, and hit him with a five-second penalty that his team boss Christian Horner reckons was a harsh call.

Asked for his thoughts on it, Wolff was too lost in his joy over the win to rehash what he called an “irrelevant” situation.

“I struggle to comment on the situation because it’s irrelevant to me at this stage to attribute guilt or to have a judgement call here,” he said as per GPFans.

“I’d rather be happy about the win.”

Wolff explains Mercedes’ no team orders decision

Speaking after Saturday’s sprint race both Russell and Hamilton said they did not expect team orders to be issued, confident they’d be allowed to race freely.

Mercedes stuck to that, Hamilton free to challenge Russell for the lead, just unable to do so.

Surprisingly, though, Mercedes allowed them to race after the last Safety Car period. In the past the team has often told the drivers to hold station in the final stage of the grand prix.

Russell even asked his engineer if ” are we racing or are we protecting the one-two”. He was told that they’re “allowed to race”.

Wolff explained the team’s reasoning.

“I think as a team, we have always stood for free racing and we have never done otherwise unless a driver is mathematically not in contention anymore for the championship and the other one is,” said the Austrian.

“We were actually looking forward to them racing with the same tyre and we discussed it ahead of the race in the strategy meeting.”

Is P2 there for the taking?

Slashing their deficit to Ferrari from 40 points after Mexico to just 19 now, Mercedes could yet snatch P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.

Although the season finale race in Abu Dhabi doesn’t carry the same number of points as Brazil as there’s no sprint race, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Mercedes.

There wasn’t mid-season when the gap was 66 points, nor was there after Japan when it grew to 67.
But a run of three podium-finishing races after upgrading the W13 at the United States Grand Prix has vastly improved the picture.

Out-scoring Ferrari three races in a row, second is now Mercedes’ for taking.

Hamilton wants it: “It’s no easy feat to beat them but if we did, I think it would be a pretty amazing comeback – and that narrative also it’s sending them into the winter, knowing we mean business.”

Read more: FIA explain why Max Verstappen was penalised for Lewis Hamilton contact at Interlagos