They are only two to fight for the title, on equal points. But while Lewis Hamilton dominated the first day of testing of this final Grand Prix, Max Verstappen’s team say they were treated unfairly against Mercedes.
At the press conference on Friday, the bosses of the two rival teams, Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Christian Horner (Red Bull), sit next to each other. The second is visibly satisfied to be there: “At Red Bull, everyone is very excited before this last race. This championship has been like a fabulous trip, but I never thought we would be there, on the eve of the last Grand Prix, tied with them (editor’s note: the Mercedes team) that no one has been able to beat for eight years. This year there have been times
intense, there were some very frustrating moments, we pushed all the limits, and it feels a bit like in Squid Game, to have gone through all the stages and to find ourselves two, tied, just before the end of the game. Whether we win or lose, Sunday will have been fantastic. “
For his part, Toto Wolff does not fully share the Briton’s enthusiasm: “Yes, it was, at times, joyful, at others very frustrating. This duel is positive for the fans, but it is also beneficial for
our team, because it has helped us to find new limits. What happened in Brazil (Editor’s note: when Lewis Hamilton was disqualified on Friday evening) woke us all up and motivated us to fight even harder for
compensate for this injustice… ”
Horner and Wolff make peace… until the next chicane!
The two shook hands during this press conference, wishing each other good luck, but they are not yet ready to befriend each other. “We had very harsh words towards each other this season, admits Christian Horner. But when the battle is so intense, it cannot be otherwise. This stems from the intensity of this championship. It would be absurd and dishonest to come and say that I love Toto and that I will go on vacation with him. Because I’m not going on vacation with him! ”
“I’m not sure we would really have fun,” Toto Wolff replies. Sometimes, when we attack my team or my drivers, my emotions can come out, it’s true. But everyone manages it as best they can. “
Two weights, two measures?
The two drivers are perfectly tied on points (369.5 each), but in reality, Max Verstappen is at the top of the standings as he has one more victory than Lewis Hamilton. If the two pilots hang on
Sunday and off the track, the Dutchman will be the 2021 world champion. To remind him that there is no question of voluntarily taking his opponent off the track, the clerk of the course issued a note on Thursday recalling that anyone who has a behavior that goes against sportsmanship would be “taken away from championship points.”
For Toto Wolff, this recall is timely. But for Christian Horner, it is perfectly out of place: “This Grand Prix is only one race among 22. What is the difference between it and, say, the Grand Prix of England or the Grand Prix of Hungary? (Editor’s note: two events during which Max Verstappen was taken out by a Mercedes)? There needs to be consistency in the judgments of the commissioners. It’s when people see a lack of consistency that they go crazy. This note, recalled by Michael Masi, has been in the rules for years, everyone knows it. Why bring it out today? Nobody wants to see this championship end by pleading in front of the marshals or in a gravel pit, on the edge of the track. With their disadvantage in terms of the number of wins, I understand that Toto and Lewis are only talking about that, but we don’t want this race to end in a collision. We want to win it. But we don’t want a special rule out of nowhere just for this race. Whatever the regulations have been so far, which was judged at Brazil’s Turn 4 (Editor’s note: when Max Verstappen dragged Lewis Hamilton off the track without any penalty) must also apply here! “
“The problem is that the pilots, from what we have heard, did not fully understand what is allowed and what is not, answers Toto Wolff. That is why it must be repeated clearly. “
Obviously, these two are not ready to agree. The risk of complaints after the race, if their drivers hang on, remains high.
Lewis Hamilton finished quite far ahead of Max Verstappen in Friday’s practice standings. But above all, these are used to find the right settings for the race, and at this level, it seems that the Dutchman’s Red Bull RB16B is just as efficient as the Mercedes on medium tires. It is difficult to say which will be the fastest single-seater in race conditions.