It was a dramatic and thrilling inaugural race at the Jeddah street Circuit with Mercedes ultimately securing a victory with Lewis Hamilton and a third-place podium for Valtteri Bottas. This season there have been multiple racing incidents involving the two championship leaders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen and the Saudi Arabian GP also delivered controversial moments between the two title contenders. After the race, Mercedes team Principal Toto Wolff spoke to selected media including Motorlat addressing the contentious racing incidents between Hamilton and Verstappen during the race.
Wolff spoke directly about the lap 37 incident when Hamilton ran into the back of Verstappen’s car, calling the incident “Brazil reloaded.”
“Look, I'm biased, and I'm still writing the emotions. And therefore it's so difficult to really judge. I think that when they hit each other, we need to look at the data. I haven't seen the data, whether how the deceleration was whether there was a brake test involved, or whether it was just to have the DRS advantage," said Wolff.
“But some of the other turn one, turn two incidents that, you know, it was a little bit like Brazil reloaded, it's more. And this has been looked at at the moment, and I'm sure that there will be the right decisions made.”
Although Wolff places faith in the FIA Stewards to make the right decision involving the race incidents between Hamilton and Verstappen, he feels it’s crucial to not let these occurrences continue to get out of hand.
Despite the heated moments on track with the two title contenders, Wolff believes that there is mutual respect between the teams. The Austrian also stated that as long as it’s a clean and fair fight for the last race in Abu Dhabi, then it can be considered a “great” season for the Mercedes team.
“I think we need to keep a lid on it. The emotions are running very, very high. There is a lot of respect between the teams, also for the achievements, and that's why as long as we have a clean race fighting for driver World Championship in Abu Dhabi. It was a great season.”
Looking ahead to the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Wolff hopes that the racing incidents that occurred in the Saudi Arabian GP will be taken seriously enough by the other F1 teams to where they will adapt their driving styles accordingly.
“I would hope that today's race has enough repercussions that everybody's gonna learn from it and adapt for the final race in Abu Dhabi.
"I think that similar driving if it were to be deemed by the stewards as being over the line, it would then probably also be penalised in Abu Dhabi under goodwill and in a messy situation for everybody.”
"And I don't think that the championship is deserved to be decided, which was influenced by a collision. So I very much in that case a trust into the self regulating system.”
With discussions by drivers and team principles over the lack of consistency with the FIA and the stewards allegedly showing team favoritism, Wolff claims that Mercedes has also been a victim to the inconistency.
“I think in Brazil, we felt that it was harsh against us with a with a disqualification for the sprint race…”
“So I think someone is always going to be unhappy about things. I'm trying to with all my bias, still to try and see, to look at things with common sense, I guess I'm not always successful and in the heat of the moment.”
Wolff continued: “I said that in Brazil we are setting a precedent, if it's not being investigated, that could end up really bad for the championship, and you've seen incidents today that that were pretty much Brazil at slower speeds. And we don't want to have that in Abu Dhabi. The quicker car with the quicker driver will win the championship and not by taking each other off.”
Wolff later expressed some empathy towards Verstappen when asked about whether or not he thinks that the Dutchman drove “over the limit”in the race.
“It was very hard. Very hard. In a way I can understand that he's fighting for his first world championship. And there was so much confusion also in the race and so many moments I would have charged us over the line but I want to look at the race tomorrow again and in all kindness and reassess,” replied Wolff.
Aside from the Hamilton and Verstappen on-track battles, Mecedes proved to have the ideal combination of strategy and race pace to bring home the win. During the last few laps of the race, there was a significant performance gap between the Mercedes W12 of Hamilton and Verstappen’s Red Bull RB16. Wolff revealed that all the hard work that the team put into long runs was the determining factor for their victory over Red Bull despite Hamilton’s front wing damage.
“We didn't know whether where the gap came yesterday. But we knew that we have a good race car, we put a lot of effort into the long runs. They were very strong.”
“And the other side [Red Bull], I don't think that they did long runs properly. And that translated in a car that was really good on the medium and on the hard. And we had the base advantage today. And I think that's ultimately what won us the race, even with the broken front wing.”
Despite claiming victory at the Saudi Arabian GP, the Mercedes team principal remains practical heading into the final race of the season. Speaking directly to Motorlat, Wolff reiterated just how pivotal it is for the team to stay grounded and consistent till the very end.
“I think in the constructor championship we made a decent step really good one but one must not forget that we're just equal points [in the Drivers'].
“So we are all cheering today and that's good because you have to enjoy these moments but now it's all or nothing in Abu Dhabi whoever wins the race wins the championship and therefore it's important though to stay both feet on the ground keep working and hopefully bring the performance that we had here today on to Abu Dhabi.”