Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff recently admitted that he still thinks about everything that went down at the dramatic Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last season, where Lewis Hamilton lost what would have been a record-breaking eighth world championship title to Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the controversial last lap of the race.
In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, Wolff said:
“I think about it every day. But I have my peace with Max [Verstappen] winning the championship, because he’s a deserving champion. How it panned out, I think I have values around fairness, and especially sporting fairness. This is what provides my fundamental love for the sport. And then that was kicked with the feet on that particular day.’’
On the very last lap of the 2021 F1 season finale, former F1 race director Michael Masi failed to make accurate decisions and allowed only the cars between race leader Hamilton and his direct championship rival Verstappen to unlap themselves after the safety car that was brought out for Nicholas Latifi's crash. Until then, the title seemed to comfortably belong to Lewis Hamilton, who was leading the race.
Right before Masi made this unprecedented call, Verstappen, with nothing to lose, was able to pit for fresher tires early on and overtake the Briton on the very final lap of the race to win his maiden championship title. While Mercedes' protests regarding the matter were not upheld, the Australian race director was removed from the position before the 2023 season, almost an admission that the wrong decision had been made.
Speaking about the work of the FIA's new president Mohammed bin Sulayem and the transparency that has come with his leadership, Wolff added:
“I think Mohammed Ben Sulayem, the way he’s hiring and recruiting, shows for me direction. Every personality has his edges. And I think the primary objective of being transparent, providing good governance and a good framework is what I see happening. Are there going to be bumps on the road because Mohammed's organisation needs to fall in place and everybody needs to find their roles? Yeah, for sure. But I’m happy with how’s it going.’’
Mercedes boss denies rumors that Sergio Perez will replace Lewis Hamilton
Toto Wolff admitted that while he respects Sergio Perez, the team has not contacted the Mexican or any other driver to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes amidst rumors of the Briton's potential retirement.
Speaking to Motorsport.com Italy, the Austrian said:
“It’s complete b******. I've never called Sergio, he’s a good guy and I respect him, but I’ve never talked to him and haven’t been in contact with any other rider. Lewis and I, even in the face of a less encouraging scenario like the start of this season, we are always aligned in wanting to try to improve things and in wanting to be together next year. And for a couple of months we have been telling each other that we could go on, maybe five or 10 years, right? So none of this is true.”
The Mercedes champion recently made it clear that it will still be a while before he decides to retire from F1.