Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff has said he fears the fight for the Formula 1 world title between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen may be decided by an accident between the two drivers.
After the pair repeatedly entangled on Sunday in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, won by Hamilton, Wolff said emotions were running high and the season finale in Abu Dhabi this weekend could turn into ” disorderly ”.
After his victory in Jeddah, Hamilton tied with Verstappen on points with 369.5 each. They go to the 22nd and final race of the season for a showdown with the winner. But Verstappen still has an advantage as Grand Prix wins are the tiebreaker. With nine wins to eight for Hamilton, if the pair remain tied on points, if not finalized, Verstappen will win the title.
In Jeddah, Hamilton and Verstappen clashed in incidents where they derailed during a wheel-to-wheel changeover and Hamilton hit the back of Verstappen’s car as he slowed down to give the lead back to the champion. world having been ordered to do so. by the race director.
Both thought they were right but Verstappen was assessed two penalties by the stewards, one for going off the track and one for irregular braking.
The friendly respect between the two men quickly dissipated in the last few races. Hamilton said Verstappen was over the limit and suggested he drove dangerously enough to get him out of the race.
F1 has a certain history of title protagonists who clashed to decide the championship, notably the duels between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1989 and 1990.
Wolff was keenly aware of the dangers of a clash in Abu Dhabi or the decision of the title ending in the hands of the stewards. ” I hope that [Sunday’s] The race has enough impact for everyone to learn from it and adjust for the final race, ”he said.
“Similar conduct, if considered by the marshals to be on the line, then would likely be penalized in Abu Dhabi as well, and it could well end in a messy situation for everyone. I don’t think the championship deserved a result influenced by a collision.
The situation is further exacerbated by the final which takes place on the Yas Marina circuit. This huge, soulless desert in the wilderness is notoriously difficult for cars to fight against each other and title makers in the past have been processions with very little opportunity for the drivers to tell the difference once the race is over. position on the track decided.
Adjustments have been made to the circuit this year in an effort to improve the chances of overtaking, but there is no guarantee that they will have made a difference, causing the driver to fear having to take risky risks and causing a collision in order to make a crash. movement.
Relations between Mercedes and Red Bull have grown strained as this intense season entered its final stages. Mercedes leads the constructors’ championship with 28 points. Team managers Wolff and Christian Horner exchanged accusations and spades, Wolff noting that the tension only increased after Sunday’s race and implying once again that he feared the title-maker is marred by an incident.
“The emotions are very, very strong,” he said. “As long as we have a clean race and are fighting for the drivers’ world championship in Abu Dhabi, it has been a great season. “
Hamilton is trying to win his eighth title and Verstappen his first. Hamilton has been in good shape recently, as has Mercedes, winning the last three races.
The lead has changed hands five times this season and Hamilton insisted he wanted to win the title cleanly.
Still, he pointed out that Verstappen’s neck-and-neck riding style, where he is uncompromising by not giving way during wheel-to-wheel races, was not up to accepted standards and stewards were not in control. clearly.
“We are supposed to do our races on the track between the white lines and the rules have not been clear from the stewards,” he said.
“From what I understand, I know I can’t pass someone and go off the track and then hold onto position. It’s well known among all of us pilots, but it doesn’t apply to any of us, I guess.