Wolff blames “miscommunication” over Verstappen protest saga

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has blamed a ‘miscommunication’ caused by the timing of his flight home from the Japanese Grand Prix for his team’s on-off protest against Max Verstappen at Suzuka.

Wolff blames “miscommunication” over Verstappen protest saga
Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Podium: third place Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing with Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 in the FIA Press Conference
Niki Lauda, Mercedes Non-Executive Chairman with Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 on the grid

Following Verstappen’s robust defence against Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the Japanese GP, Mercedes elected to protest the Dutchman’s driving.

In the end, the FIA felt that it needed to speak to both drivers before ruling on the matter, which is why it originally planned to hold a hearing ahead of the United States Grand Prix.

But following a confusing few minutes – when Hamilton himself hit out on Twitter at an ‘idiot’ who said that the team was protesting before deleting the Tweet – Mercedes eventually decided to drop the matter.

Reflecting on what happened, Wolff said that the situation had been caused because he and executive chairman Niki Lauda had been out of contact with team representatives at the Suzuka track because their flight was taking off.

“It was a miscommunication,” explained Wolff. “When we left the circuit, I said that the Verstappen manoeuvre was a hard manoeuvre but probably what we want to see in F1. It is refreshing and I think the drivers need to sort that out among themselves on track. We decided not to step in.

“Then there was an unfortunate coincidence that we took off and left and the team had a minute to decide whether to protest or not. And that is what they did. 

"Once we were able to communicate again, which was 30 minutes after take-off, we decided to withdraw the protest.”

Hamilton protest

The Hamilton tweet came at the end of a weekend where he got involved in a spat with the media because of what he thought was disrespectful coverage of his behaviour in a press conference.

Wolff said that he had quietly spoken to Hamilton about the matter ahead of Austin, and said the Briton’s behaviour in Japan was likely the result of the mounting pressure on him in the championship.

“I think that generally all of us we underestimate the pressure that is on these guys,” explained Wolff. “A couple of races before the end of the season there is all to win and all to lose. And I guess after Malaysia when he was in the lead, 25 points to take, the engine blew up.

“That was a very difficult situation for him to cope. As cool as someone might seem to the outside, inside it kind of eats you up – and that may be why the weekend in Suzuka was a bit difficult for him.

“He knows exactly that there is a job to be done in the car and a job to be done outside of the car, and it just needs small inputs, not more, and that is what happened.

“We had a couple of conversations but it was generally about how things can be improved. Not a headmaster kind of discussion.”

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