Sir Lewis Hamilton claimed victory at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, this past Sunday, under the lights at the Losail International Circuit. A second consecutive Grand Prix of dominance in as many weeks has seen the seven-time F1 Drivers’ World Champion claw his way back into a gripping title fight with Max Verstappen. Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff has warned that they have woken up the lion in Lewis following the penalties the Briton faced in Interlagos. An ironic turn of phrase seeing how the image of the lion is one associated with Max Verstappen. Whether mind games or not, one thing was certain, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton have momentum with two races of a breathtaking season remaining.
During Sunday’s post-race press conference for the Qatar Grand Prix (of which motorlat.com was again in attendance), Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team Principal Toto Wolff shared his thoughts prior to joining his team for a yet another winners’ photo outside the front of a dominant Mercedes garage.
Meanwhile, Toto Wolff’s counterpart at Red Bull Racing was busy explaining his comments made before the race regarding track marshalling. Human error was a contributing factor to Max Verstappen receiving a 5-place penalty for failing to respect double waved yellow flags. Christian Horner was far from happy but nor were the FIA by his remarks hence the apology which followed.
Mercedes also saw a driver fall victim to a similar situation as Valtteri Bottas was demoted three places on the grid ahead of the start of the Qatar Grand Prix for failing to respect single yellow flags. Wolff’s comments on the matter were straight to the point and would certainly not lead to him requiring a visit to the stewards later on:
“There was a yellow on the track because a car parked to the right, and the penalties are unfortunate absolutely but the rules are the rules. It happened to us in Austria in 2020 with Lewis…how do you change that?”
Wolff’s response acknowledged that human error can happen but he was also aware that the on-track marshal is a small part of the process. As such he had no further annoyance on the issue. However, that did not stop Toto Wolff being asked whether tensions between teams and the FIA need to diffuse.
Wolff made clear he would not comment on the actions of Christian Horner, which he claimed not to have heard, but the Mercedes maestro did say “There is a lot at stake…we are all responsible for what we say and what we do.”
Regardless of what may be happening off-track, the on-track dominance shown by Lewis Hamilton was something to behold. For a second week in a row a commanding drive resulted in the Briton now being fully back into contention for a record-breaking 8th F1 Drivers’ World Championship. As such, was Toto Wolff surprised to be in this situation?
“I think I never stopped believing that this was on because we had such a strong Turkey…anyone in the team refuses to give up and I am grateful how the championship has swung. I hope it will go all the way to the end and whoever wins will merit the win.”
Either of the contenders for the crown would be a worthy champion. Max Verstappen and his orange army with a lion as its figurehead have represented exceptional racing. However, history has shown that one can never count out Lewis Hamilton.
Toto Wolff indicated that he feels that the injustice Hamilton felt – having been handed two penalties in Brazil –– was the catalyst for this ever-impressive form which started with victory in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix and continued this past weekend in Qatar.
“They have woken up the lion on the Saturday in Interlagos, he is absolutely on it, brutal and cold blooded and this is the best in Lewis. We have seen it in the past and he is right there.”
On the other side of the garage though, anything that could go wrong for Lewis Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, did go wrong. This was made clear in Wolff’s remarks on the matter to the media:
“If you can say about a day in the office, if you can call it hell, that was Valtteri’s day. Fell back right after the start into no man’s land. Recovered really on course for a podium. Was the first one to have a puncture at the beginning of the lap and then there was no downforce anymore so we retired it. It doesn’t go any worse. The car was running hot, the car was damaged and wasn’t fast enough anymore so we decided to reserve the power unit.”
Such a decision may be an ominous one for the rest of the grid because everyone knows how powerful a Mercedes engine can be. Not to mention the fact that you can be sure Valtteri Bottas will be eager to leave Mercedes in style.
Nevertheless, the headlines belonged to Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff praised the breathtaking talent of his talismanic racer: “When adversity happens then it takes him [Hamilton] to a place where he is able to mobilise superhero powers and it was the adversity that triggered that in Interlagos.”
Not finished there, Mercedesamgf1.com, would later publish further thoughts from the team principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, which saw Toto Wolff make his lion reference once again.
“That was a commanding win for Lewis. He controlled the pace from the front and did everything he needed to do, completely in the zone. The lion got woken up in Interlagos and we saw that today in Qatar!
The man steering the title challenge for Mercedes is well aware that nothing is concluded yet as Wolff declared through the team’s official website:
“We know there are still many challenges to come but we’re enjoying the ride, when it is so tough, this is exactly why we are in this sport. It’s maximum attack for the last two rounds, we’ve got some points to make up, so this is what we’re aiming to do and we’re enjoying every minute of it.
Enjoying every minute of an exceptional duel is also what every fan of the pinnacle of motorsport is experiencing. Now, all eyes will be on the events yet to unfold at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
It has truly been a stunning season but all good things must come to an end. As for who will take the spoils, as Toto Wolff says - whoever wins will merit the win. First though, a much-needed break for those in the teams…as much as those supporting them!