Toto Wolff expects Formula 1’s next drivers’ briefing to feature a discussion on what he felt was a retaliatory act by Max Verstappen against his driver Lewis Hamilton during Austrian Grand Prix sprint qualifying.
Hamilton was eliminated in the first segment of Saturday’s qualifying session – and only managed to recover to the non-points-paying 10th place in the race – and Wolff cited the “white line infringement” that led to the deletion of Hamilton’s best SQ1 laptime and a subsequent “miscommunication” as primary reasons for the debacle.
But, though seemingly reluctant to come off as being too agitated about it, he later also acknowledged that he felt Red Bull driver Verstappen had deliberately denied Hamilton a final chance to improve.
The incident took place in the final seconds of the session, with Verstappen – on a flying lap and with Hamilton slow on a preparatory lap – caught up behind the W14 coming through the final corner.
The championship leader drew alongside Hamilton on the start-finish straight and effectively overtook him into Turn 1 as part of what he argued was intended to be a second successive push lap – before soon bailing out on said push lap.
“He blocked me into the last corner, so I had to brake more and then I lost like three tenths,” said Verstappen. “So that wasn’t ideal. I think not correct.
“It was still a few seconds on the clock so I wasn’t sure about my laptime, if I was going to be safe, so I wanted to continue.
“But I ran out of time and space, with the two cars like that. Which was a bit of a shame.”
Verstappen’s laptime was ultimately very safe for SQ2, albeit the fact the track was improving rapidly following rain earlier provided plausible deniability.
But his explanation was not one that matched Wolff’s view of the incident.
“The mistake happened on our side, the communication between us and Lewis didn’t give him the right information to get out of Max’s way, and no one wants to be in anybody’s way because if you impede, you’re getting penalised,” Wolff said.
“So that was not the aim.
“On the other side, Turn 1 was a revanche [‘revenge’ or ‘retaliation’ in French] for it. You know, it was just to make sure that his lap is ruined.
“So, one was not intentional, the other one was intentional. But who cares?
“At the end we looked at it, is it going to change our race or not?
“But I think they’re going to talk about it in the drivers’ briefing next week.”