Not the weekend Mercedes planned in Brazil. After leading the FP1 and the Qualifying on Friday, they failed to pass the FIA tests, which denoted an irregularity on the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton’s single-seater. The FIA took almost 24 hours to decide what to do with them and in the end the stewards decided to disqualify Lewis Hamilton from the Qualyfing result, so the English driver had to start the sprint race from the back of the grid in P20.
The brilliant work of Lewis Hamilton, reduced the damage. Indeed he ended up in P5, but due to the change of some engine components he will start from P10, as he serves a five-place grid penalty.
On the other side Valtteri Bottas, was able to overtake Max Verstappen at the start of this Saturday’s sprint race, taking home pole for today.
Toto Wolff, commented the whole situation soon after the Sprint Qualifying ended, and he seemed so proud of the work both his drivers did in a virtual session that included MotorLat: “Lewis achieved P6 in the end and Valtteri disappeared at the front like he did in Turkey; this gave me the best of the feelings. We know this can swing from one day to another, but today this reminded me why I love this sport. Everything is possible. One of our car stars from pole the other one starts from P10. I think the battle for tomorrow is quite open”
Of course Wolff talked a lot about the emotions he and the team went through in the past hours, and how they reacted to the FIA’s decision: “There is a particular modus operanda in F1; our rear wing did not respect the FIA rules. In other conditions in the past, we would have been able to fit it, look at it. The wing is still with the stewards so we can’t inspect it and we don’t know exactly what the damage is. In the end the stewards did the job, we failed the test and their decision has to be respected, that’s why we choose not to appeal the decision. We have to be able to take it on the chin.”
Although Mercedes was able to react well to the stewards decision, respect it and get a good result on Saturday, Toto Wolff did not hide his and Lewis Hamilton’s wonder when they were informed he got disqualified.
About this, Wolff commented: “I spent a lot of time with him. Of course, disbelief. We respected the difficulty of the stewards decision in this hard situation. It’s certainly not that easy taking a difficult decision on such a contagious topic like a world championship. They need to look at the specific situation. We’ve marginally failed the test. The wing did not respected the FIA standards by just 2mm. They did not allowed us to fix it, but the drivers were immediately reported to the stewards. The bullet was out of the gun, and this put the stewards in a very hard situation.”
The damaged wing is still with the FIA stewards for the whole weekend but from a first analysis, it looks like just the right side of the wing is damaged, and the damage occurred during the qualyfing session on Friday.
“I thought it was going to be classified as a simple damage,” Wolff said.
“I don’t think bad luck exists in motorsport. You need to respect the decisions and the regulations. You need to accept this is a feels fight with several figures involved. We didn’t go against the rule and appealed the decision; we would have liked to show the weaknesses of the argument or the system; we didn’t because we didn’t want to lose points for today and tomorrow. We didn’t appeal because we have to do the racing on track and if we lose we lose, and if we win, we win.”
Wolff is firmly convinced that they have a good chance for the victory today, as Bottas starts from pole and will do anything to take home important points, and Hamilton is going to fight to take back as many positions as he can for both the championships.
The battle with Verstappen is still wide open, and while he got a 50.000$ fine for touching the rear wing of Hamilton’s car during parc fermé regime, Wolff commented the situation saying: “For someone with a solid middle class salary, 50.000$? Doesn’t bother him I think. You can see what it is. I don’t want to keep dwelling about someone harassing our car. I’m not trying to refer to any particular individual because everyone tries to do their job in the best way possible, but something went against the modus operanda in the last 24 hours.”
Toto Wolff tries to keep his team with both feet on the ground, despite the good result of yesterday, as the battle with Red Bull is still open and just three races, after Brazil, divide the 2021 World Champion and his team from the most important victory of the year.