Up on Ferrari by just four points in the Constructors’ Championship it is all to play for in Abu Dhabi, and Toto Wolff’s grateful there’s a “proper race director” in charge this time.
Two years ago Mercedes experienced a more noteworthy showdown in Abu Dhabi when Lewis Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel with Max Verstappen for the World title.
In a winner-takes-all race, then-race director Michael Masi set up a one-lap shoot-out for the title when he gave the go-ahead for only the cars between race leader Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves.
‘We have a proper race director, so that should be fine’
Verstappen on fresher tyres made short work of Hamilton at Turn 4 as the Briton announced “this has been manipulated” in a radio message to his Mercedes team.
Verstappen won the World title, his first of three, while Hamilton was denied a record-breaking eighth crown.
Wolff admitted as recently as last week that he’s still smarting over that, telling PA: “I have a personal anger, and drive to make him win the eighth title because he should have had it.”
This season Mercedes are once again heading into a season finale showdown, although this time the prize is a little less glamorous as they’re fighting Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
The Silver Arrows team are four points ahead of the Scuderia, who made big gains in Las Vegas as they slashed Mercedes’ lead from 20 points.
Wolff is happy that this time around there’s a “proper” race director in charge with Niels Wittich at the helm.
“We’re going there on pretty much equal points, we have a proper race director, so that should be fine,” the Mercedes team boss told the media.
“Then let’s race, it’s all down to the last weekend.
“[Ferrari] are very quick, they’ve done a good job, I think we could have been on par [in Las Vegas], but the result shows something different so let’s race.”
‘P2 or P3 doesn’t make me particularly cheer anyway’
Mercedes have had the advantage over Ferrari all season, the Brackley squad’s biggest lead having been 56 points after the Belgium Grand Prix.
However, in seven of the nine Grands Prix since, Ferrari have outscored Mercedes to close the gap to just four points.
Wolff is adamant second or third “doesn’t” really matter even if P2 would be a “positive” result.
“To be honest it’s good to have P2 as a positive to finish the season, but P2 or P3 doesn’t make me particularly cheer anyway,” he added.
As for George Russell, the Briton is hoping to finish the second on a high note after a penalty cost him four places in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
“I think when you have a fast car, luck is always on your side. When you’re on the back foot, luck is never on your side,” he said.
“But ultimately, we just need to keep on pushing, go into next week and see what we can do.”