Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Suzuka, 2018

Wolff defends Vettel over Verstappen collision

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff defended Sebastian Vettel over his collision with Max Verstappen, saying the Ferrari didn’t make a mistake by trying to pass the Red Bull at Spoon Curve.

“I’m not sure it’s a mistake with him,” said Wolff. “He recovered well from his starting position and was running a solid fourth at that stage.

“As a race driver you need to go for it or not and the door looked open and he gave it a go and then there was a race incident that caused him to drop all the way back.”

The collision between the pair was the latest in a series of setbacks which have blunted Vettel’s championship challenge and left Lewis Hamilton on the brink of clinching a fifth title.

Despite having both titles in sight, Wolff stressed it is important for Mercedes to “stay concentrated” and take the championship “race weekend by race weekend”.

“I don’t believe you have your hands on the trophy until you have it in your hands. As it stands we haven’t got the driver trophy and we haven’t got the constructor trophy, which is a little bit further away.

“So the way we’ve approached things is to take it race weekend by race weekend and to try to maximise the car for every weekend and then really take it as an ambitious target to perform at all tracks and in all conditions and to take every single race weekend as a new championship from Friday and this has worked so far, apart from Spa.”

While Ferrari has suffered a downturn in recent races, Wolff says the team will not be distracted by watching its rival.

“They had a very strong Spa weekend and we didn’t perform as per the expectations we have of ourselves and since then we’ve continued to try to optimise our package and do the best possible job on the car and in the car with the drivers and that has proven to be the right tactic.

“None of us is looking at where Ferrari is, it’s not where the energy goes it’s just lining up weekends and then hopefully we’ll be in the situation where we’ve won. ”

Mercedes lead the constructors’ championship by 78 points, with 536 to Ferrari’s 460 and Hamilton has a 67 point lead on Vettel in the drivers’ championship, with 331 points to his rival’s 264.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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Posted on Categories 2018 F1 season, 2018 Japanese Grand Prix, F1 news

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  • 27 comments on “Wolff defends Vettel over Verstappen collision”

    1. Yes I think the Vettel/Verstappen incident was a racing indecent while the Verstappen/Raikkonen was a bit reckless on Verstappens part.

      1. @johnrkh I don’t think it should have been called a racing incident. I’ve looked at both on-boards to understand if Vettel was wrong, and he looked to be at fault when I watched it during the race. However I don’t think he is any more.
        https://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/f1/11520034/vettel-verstappen-collide
        Vettel approached spoon curve and got half of his car on the inside of the corner. That is enough to tell the driver on the inside that you cannot turn in. 1:05 in that video. Vettel has done enough to deserve the line through the corner. Max at 1:06 without realising it seems, starts to turn in on Vettel. and it’s not like he had to, he had space on the right. He just wanted to close the door to avoid being overtaken. It’s not fair racing, but Max keeps doing it. He would rather crash than even give a slight indication that he will let you overtake him. The problem is that kind of racing won’t work on Ham, Vettel, Ricciardo or most younger guys. They will always go for it if there’s a possibility to overtake. Right now Ham has championship at stake, so he plays it safe. Notice how Ham was much faster in Sochi but didn’t overtake Max down to turn one before Max pitted. Max just turned into the corner, it could have been Ham out of the race if he didn’t back out of it, even thought he had the same right as Vettel to be there. There will be other seasons when drivers will not have championships on the line, and it will show again how poor Max defends. Just sad it will take many crashes before he learns.

        1. It was a stupid mistake from Vet. No further actions. So no one is to blaim.

        2. I have the same point of view. Max could have avoided collision but he chose to close and clash. It is legal but dirty and unsportsmanlike because he was going to be overtaken (at least briefly). It is not like Vettel was not going to make the turn. He had the car under control, making the turn using an inside suboptimal trajectory.

          1. So you think that when a car is going through spoon with +/-120km/h you can do everything with a car you want? And also think about it?! That’s the problem with most people. If you think you can, then it can be done.

    2. Realistically though, he would’ve probably got him into 130R or the chicane. Like, Max is the hardest defensive driver out there, you don’t make those moves on him. Ever.

      1. Or at latest when Verstappen had to pit and take his 5 second penalty @hugh11, so yeah, still a mistake.

    3. I’ll wager Toto wants Vettel to make that kind of move on Verstappen at every Grand Prix!

    4. It was a racing incident but it was a mistake on Vettel part. He was always going to get him, either later in the lap or via the pit stops given Max penalty. So to end 6th instead of 3rd is a mistake, championship fight or not.

      And it’s just another in the list for Seb this year. He’s been erratic, more than ever before I think

      1. I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Seb had used a chunk of his battery by that point, and Verstappen was harvesting, so the next place would have been the start finish straight as it’s likely the extra battery Max had would have given him enough for the back straight.
        From that point on, the RBR actually looked to be the quicker car in the corners. And they had the pace later in the race – hard to say for sure whether they were faster because both Ferraris had damage, but I’m not so sure he would have had an easy job getting past.

        1. According to Vettel he had the power to pull it off.

          But inside the car, the gap was there, his battery was clipping, I was boosting, I saved my battery, I had more speed, I would make the corner

    5. It was definitely a racing incident. It isn’t that of an illogical move to be honest. Max is a very aggressive driver and he doesn’t like being overtaken on track. Bottas couldn’t pass him in Monza which is a power circuit. That doesn’t mean that Seb couldn’t have passed him later on on the chicane or turn 1 but given Max’s record, it may have been his only chance to overtake him. That doesn’t justify his move but it could be the motivation behind it.

      Vettel needs to regroup himself now. Hopefully the fact that he has effectively lost the title will help him. Gotta day though that since Marchionnes death, Ferrari has no structure. They need to focus on 2019 completely from now on. They have the car but Vettel needs to become more patient (his main weakness) and the strategy needs to be on point if they are going to win.

    6. Why has it become an acceptable habit to push others off the track? I don’t remember this as a regular move on drivers some years ago.

      1. I feel the same: sportsmanship was lost, and I don’t see it as a positive at all.

        1. I became aware of it when people started defending Magnussen’s driving

      2. 2016 Ham/Nico when Ham kept driving Nico off the course and then everyone threw things at their TV before commenting about how Nico/Ham was a terrible driver, depending on who you hated.

      3. Not before a certain Ayrton made a habit of it

    7. No matter the outcome of race you can always count on Wolf bs.

    8. Who’d have thought there was something worse than ronspeak?

    9. Smart. Keep condoning Vettel’s bad moves and he will keep believing they’re not bad moves.

    10. I agree with TW that SV had to go for it. It’s easy to judge using hindsight, but given SV’s standing and knowing LH was cakewalking it, with VB between them, what choice did SV really have? Pick another time to overtake, sure, but they don’t have a crystal ball to know that opportunity in the future will be available. That said I admit I have suggested at times a driver could have picked a better time to try a pass…easy to say from the comfort of our armchairs.

      1. I find comments so difficult to read when drivers are referred to by their initials, it would be so much simpler if they’re referred to as their F1 graphic shortened, VET, HAM, BOT etc,
        In my opinion of course, it might just be me

    11. I’ve also rewatched the incident several times and revised my opinion. The Sky commentary team might also wish to reflect on their initial view. For sure Vettel took a big and unnecessary risk in terms of the Championship but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. Max turned in with Vettel half way along side and could have moved to the outside to leave more space and avoid a collision. Vettel also didn’t understeer into him. Thinking back across the season Max has been involved in a fair share of controversial moves, including again today with both Ferrari’s. He’s fast for sure, but I’m starting to question if he has any real class as a driver.

      1. I agree with Tippracer. The class difference will show the moment Verstappen himself is genuinely in a title race. He will throw points on collisions. He’s showed a ridiculous lack of awareness and arrogance in his view on the Kimmi collision. He had left the track and so had no right to his line, yet he still said Kimmi should have “waited” to let him back on the track. Why? It is a race and Verstappen locked up and left the track so he has to forfeit.

    12. Verstappen should go race in nascar. He lacks the finesse of toe to toe race battling. The point of f1 is to drive as fast as possible making clean masterlly over takes with no contact. He closed the door on vettel. He should hav left him a cars with. Which was narrowly disappearing. Bcos he turned into the corner. He also ran kimi off the road.

    Comments are closed.