After a rough start to the 2022 season by Mercedes’ standards, Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff still can’t let go of the 2021 decider.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff still can’t let go of the 2021 championship decider.
It’s been four months since the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took out the F1 championship in the most controversial circumstances.
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The drama exploded when, after a crash with five laps remaining, Aussie race director Michael Masi allowed lapped cars between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen to move out of the way.
It created a one-lap fight for the title between seven-time champion Hamilton on old, hard tires and Verstappen on fresh, soft tires, which are the fastest compound available.
Verstappen overtook Hamilton and won his maiden championship as the F1 world was divided over the drama.
The decision had Wolff seeing red and he vented his fury to Masi over the radio, which was also was broadcast for TV viewers to hear.
“This is not right!” Wolff said at the time.
After slinging mud throughout the off-season, Wolff has shown once again he has not forgiven or forgotten what happened last year.
Masi, who was stood down as race director and was offered a new position in F1, was replaced as race director by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas on alternating weekends, while Herbie Blash will be a permanent senior advisor.
But that hasn’t stopped Wolff from launching yet another attack on Masi, labeling the Aussie a “liability” to the sport.
“He was just immune to any feedback and even today he has not properly reflected that he did something wrong,” Wolff said.
“You hear from the drivers and how the drivers’ briefings were conducted (by Masi) and some of the guys said it was almost disrespectful how he treated some of them.
“There is a promoter of one of the races in the Middle East who said he was so relieved he had gone because he got so much abuse from him.”
Mercedes’ fury at last year’s result did not lead to a formal protest after the event, while the governing body of motorsport, the FIA, investigated the situation.
It ultimately found there was “human error”, but didn’t blame Masi, admitting the rules were open to interpretation.
While Hamilton congratulated Verstappen, Wolff has continued to slam Masi and claim the drama overshadowed the Dutchman’s maiden championship.
“He was a liability for the sport because everybody kept talking about Abu Dhabi and the race director,” he said. “The race director should not be somebody that people talk about but someone who does the job and makes sure the race is run according to the regulations.
“I had lunch with him on the Wednesday before the race. I said to him, ‘I really want to tell you, without patronizing you, that you need to take criticism on board and develop from there. Lewis does it every day but you are a guy who always seems to know better’.
“It wasn’t about influencing him but really giving my honest feedback that he shouldn’t block outside opinion as simply being wrong.”
The ugly situation came after a tight season where Wolff and Red Bull team bosses were regularly on the radio with Masi, constantly arguing about calls.
It all came to a head in Abu Dhabi.
Verstappen and Hamilton went into the final race locked on the same number of championship points and for much of the race, Hamilton looked set to cruise to a record eighth world title.
That was until Williams’ Nicholas Latifi crashed five laps from the end, reducing Hamilton’s large lead and bringing the cars back together.