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F1 | Toto Wolff discusses title battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, says the Dutchman took Hamilton out at Monza "because he was quicker"

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has discussed the ferocious Drivers’ Championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, as well as the spectacular coming togethers we have seen so far.

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F1 | Toto Wolff discusses title battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, says the Dutchman took Hamilton out at Monza "because he was quicker"
Fuente imagen: Hasan Bratic - Motorlat

The 2021 championship battle has been closely contested thus far, with Mercedes’ driver Lewis Hamilton trailing Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by just twelve points with only 5 races left. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff discussed the animosity between the two drivers in an interview with dailymail.co.uk.

“If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years,” admits Wolff.

“What happened in Monza? Verstappen took Lewis [Hamilton] out because he was about to overtake and he was quicker. And that is totally understandable. If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can't overtake? We've seen it with Schumacher and Villeneuve, we saw it with Senna and Prost twice.

“I would never give the instruction to crash into anyone else but if they go to that last race and whoever is in front wins the championship, they will be racing each other, hard.

“And I don't think you can control it, Hamilton and Verstappen, I don't think you want to control it because they are the gladiators in their machines. That is what makes this sport so interesting, because it is ingrained in our nature that we don't like confrontation and then one is intrigued to see how that relationship unfolds.

“If they crash are they going to confront each other? What are they going to say? Will they look in each others' eyes? We would not interfere. The relationship is sorted out between the individuals.”

Wolff continued to discuss the high profile coming togethers between the two drivers so far this season, highlighting both drivers have walked away unharmed on both occasions, and suggesting the fallout could have been handled better by the teams.

“I look back at Silverstone. Our perspective is of an over-aggressive Verstappen, who has been over-aggressive for a long time but has always got away with it, who then ended up in the wall. We think he should have left space. We saw him crash, which was hard, but he got out of the car and we heard on many occasions he was OK, that he was sent to hospital for precautionary checks but was all right —and that came from senior Red Bull personnel.

“Meanwhile, we finally won a race again, in Silverstone, with Lewis Hamilton, in front of a big British crowd, against the odds. So we were super-happy. We gained 25 points on our main rival.

“But from Red Bull's perspective they think they were in the right, they see their driver go into the wall and hear him on the radio, suffering — which we didn't hear — with immense impact.

“You've lost 25 points, which is disastrous for your campaign and then your driver is in hospital not feeling great with a 50G impact and then you see Mercedes celebrating exuberantly. So you think that's not right.

“Could we have done it better? Muted celebrations? No. People always see things in black and white. I'm right, you're wrong. They don't get it.

“Then we go to Monza. So what's worse? A 50G impact, or having a car on your head? Look, both walked away unharmed. That was the consequence, so fine, we move on.

“Lewis never played the dying swan, nor did we ever say he was heavily injured. And that can happen when a 750kg race car ends up on your head, even for a short while. He had a stiff neck, or a stiff body. But that's why they are well paid.

“One pantomime player at Red Bull felt he needed to comment and said Lewis was well enough to go to the Met Gala. But we didn't say he was gravely injured. It was just another headline created.”

When asked about dealing with Hamilton within the team, Wolff complimented the seven time champion’s maturity as well as his dedication and respect to the team but continued to state Mercedes drivers are expected to respect the team and act appropriately.

“This is Mercedes,” says Wolff. “We have no place for the genius jerk. Even a superstar driver has to respect team values. But with Lewis, we've been eight years together now. He's not an arrogant, spoiled little kid. He's a mature racer who has won seven titles, six with us, so we can take those moments, it's part of our role to be a trash bin for the driver sometimes.

“In the car, you can get very frustrated and emotional. You are racing at 200mph, in the rain, you have no idea about the overall picture of the race and decisions are being made that you cannot understand. In the early years I would bite back at Lewis.

“He was very young and I had to make the point that I wouldn't allow the driver to bad-mouth the team.

“But we've been moved on from there a long time. Still, I wouldn't hesitate in the future if a driver talked bad about the team or wasn't appropriate, I would first deal with it internally and if that didn't yield results I would take the driver out of the car. On the bench, yes.

“I don't think that would ever be Lewis. He's a team member, not a contractor, a driver that comes and goes. We've been together since 2013. We know each other so well, there's so much trust and respect. I was close to putting a driver on the bench when it was Lewis and Rosberg. Twice. In 2014 and 2016. I said I would judge over 48 hours whether one needed to sit out. I still don't know who it would have been. But that was long ago. It is unimaginable given the relationship I have with Lewis today that it could happen now.

“And George Russell is another intelligent young man. He will slot into the team but that doesn't mean he has to hold back when driving. You can't expect a lion in the car and a puppy out of it.

“But there are certain boundaries within the team that must be respected and George knows them very well. Once the lights are green, only the drivers are responsible. I can't interfere, manage or remote control them, but one thing is of ultimate importance — don't touch. That's your responsibility. You can race hard, but no contact.”

Wolff continued to compare the current situation at Mercedes to that of the era of Hamilton and Rosberg, stating he will not allow that to happen again.

“I've been there before with Nico when it wasn't just a rivalry. There was a lot of animosity and that's not going to happen.

“This is about showing respect for each other and it can be hard because if you race on the same spot on the race track you will eventually come across each other — but there is an integrity we expect that no one is ever bigger than the team.

“The drivers know that. You represent 2,000 people who work for us and 350,000 people who work for Mercedes. So again, you are the solar system and the Mercedes star — that's the sun.”

When asked whether he would prefer to win the constructors’ or drivers’ championship, Wolff highlighted the effort put in by the whole team at Mercedes but admits this season is different given the close and competitive battle.

“I would normally pick the constructors' championship because it is the acknowledgement of the team, the 2,000 unsung heroes,” he says. “But this year is very different.

Andrew Shovlin, our chief engineer trackside, said something very interesting. He said there are not many engineers who can say they engineered Ayrton Senna's car.

“If Lewis wins his eighth, Andrew said he would value having engineered his car more than winning the constructors championship. And I think that's a nice thing to say.

“I've been associated with Lewis' success. We are a team. Being part of his eighth championship, creating that history, would be very, very rewarding.”

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