Toto Wolff says Red Bull went ‘below the belt’ with attack on Lewis Hamilton

  • Mercedes and Red Bull spat builds before Hungarian GP
  • Max Verstappen quickest in Friday morning’s practice session

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen may want to do their talking on track at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix but their teams remain firmly entrenched in opposition as the verbal sallies continued to fly on Friday at the Hungaroring. After the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers clashed at the British Grand Prix, the tension of an already fiercely fought championship ratcheted up a level and neither teams nor drivers are clearly ready yet for a rapprochement.

On Thursday Red Bull’s request for a review into the drivers’ clash at Silverstone was rejected by the FIA stewards. The incident in which Verstappen was knocked out of the race in an 180mph crash after Hamilton clipped him attempting to pass at Copse left Red Bull furious, with their team principal, Christian Horner, accusing the world champion of dirty driving. The Dutch driver also blamed his Mercedes counterpart while Hamilton, although given a 10-second penalty for being predominantly at fault, bullishly insisted he would repeat the move again if given the chance.

By the time the stewards made their decision Mercedes had clearly had enough and on Thursday night issued a scathing statement condemning “a concerted attempt by the senior management of Red Bull Racing to tarnish the good name and sporting integrity of Lewis Hamilton”.

As the cars took to the track in Budapest on Friday the two team principals remained uncompromising as this spat ebbed and flowed again. Verstappen had repeatedly accused Hamilton of being disrespectful and the Mercedes principal, Toto Wolff, surely chose his words carefully as he explained the rationale behind the team’s Thursday statement.

“We wanted to bring a little bit of respect back to the discussion,” he said. “We understand emotions can run high and it is always a matter of perspective and perception but we felt that line was overstepped.

“Everybody needs to decide whether they want to apologise or not. We felt that the comments made during and after the race and in witness statements and in the meeting itself [with the stewards] were below the belt. But it’s not up to me nor would Lewis want to demand any apologies.”

Not that any are likely to be forthcoming. Horner emphatically denied that his team’s presentation to the stewards had been a personal attack on Hamilton but would not back down from the position he had held since Silverstone, that Hamilton had been at fault.

“I am entitled to an opinion on that incident, as is everybody else,” he said. “At the time emotions are running high. We had a driver that needed to be taken to hospital for precautionary checks after an accident that would have definitely knocked out your average human being. We have lost a car in its entirety under a budget cap environment for something the stewards didn’t deem to be Max’s fault. There is nothing personal about it but even a seven-time world champion can sometimes make mistakes or misjudgments.”

At this 11th meeting of the season, with Verstappen’s lead cut to eight points after his DNF, both drivers are aware of the small margins that may decide the title. Neither will be willing to cede any advantage and Horner acknowledged that further incidents between the two were all too likely.

“It’s inevitable that these two drivers are going to be starting within close proximity at potentially the remaining 12 or 13 races,” he said. “We have seen the outcome of this incident. I hope that doesn’t play a significant role in the outcome of the championship and in future races.”

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks.

The title is what matters but Hamilton may also pass some remarkable milestones this weekend. He can secure a 100th career victory should he take the flag at a circuit where he has a peerless record. With eight wins here, another on Sunday would make him the first driver to take nine at the same circuit.

On track there was tantalisingly little to choose between the two teams, with Mercedes enjoying the hot temperatures bringing their tyres up to speed. Verstappen was quickest in the morning session, six hundredths up on Valtteri Bottas’s Mercedes, with Hamilton in third just over a 10th down. In the afternoon Bottas led the timesheets, just two-hundredths in front of Hamilton and Verstappen two-tenths back in third, struggling with understeer.

Contributor

Giles Richards at the Hungaroring

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mercedes’ Toto Wolff expects ‘hungry’ Lewis Hamilton to stay with F1 team
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, said Lewis Hamilton had been energised by the F1 world title battle with Max Verstappen

Giles Richards at the Red Bull Ring

25, Jun, 2021 @3:05 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes expect Red Bull to press home advantage
Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team are expecting Red Bull to maintain their advantage in the coming double-header in Austria after Max Verstappen took victory at the French Grand Prix on Sunday

Giles Richards

21, Jun, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Red Bull fume as Lewis Hamilton thrills crowd with glory at Silverstone
Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, have condemned Lewis Hamilton for his role in the collision with Verstappen that put the Dutchman out of the British Grand Prix

Giles Richards at Silverstone

18, Jul, 2021 @8:16 PM

Article image
F1: Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes face uphill battle to challenge Red Bull
Lewis Hamilton, who trails Max Verstappen by 32 points in the drivers’ championship, accepts Mercedes have fallen behind Red Bull

Giles Richards

05, Jul, 2021 @12:06 PM

Article image
Toto Wolff angry despite ‘best ever’ Lewis Hamilton performance in Brazil
Toto Wolff described Lewis Hamilton’s victory as one of his ‘best ever’ but hit out at ‘laughable’ decisions he believes Mercedes suffered in Brazil

Giles Richards

15, Nov, 2021 @5:28 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says Max Verstappen’s comments are ‘a sign of weakness’
Lewis Hamilton brushed off recent comments from Max Verstappen and vowed to do his talking on the track as Mercedes unveiled their new car on Friday

Giles Richards

14, Feb, 2020 @6:22 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says Bahrain GP win proves it's more about talent than car
Lewis Hamilton celebrated his against-the-odds victory for Mercedes at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as once more proving his talent makes the difference behind the wheel

Giles Richards

28, Mar, 2021 @8:28 PM

Article image
Wolff fears ‘messy’ finale to Hamilton v Verstappen F1 world title battle
The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, knows Max Verstappen would be champion if neither he nor Lewis Hamilton finished in Abu Dhabi

Giles Richards

06, Dec, 2021 @6:52 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says F1 title rival Max Verstappen ‘not driving by the rules’
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen repeatedly clashed during the Saudi Arabian GP with Hamilton saying: ‘He’s over the limit, for sure’

Giles Richards

05, Dec, 2021 @10:44 PM

Article image
Lewis Hamilton says he must win Brazilian GP to keep title fight alive
Lewis Hamilton has admitted ‘the task is as steep as can be’ as he attempts to overturn a 19-point deficit to Max Verstappen in this year’s championship race

Giles Richards

11, Nov, 2021 @6:34 PM