Wolff: DNFs will make the difference in F1 championship fight

Toto Wolff believes retirements will “make a big difference” in this year’s Formula 1 championship fight, and not the smaller points swings between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Wolff: DNFs will make the difference in F1 championship fight
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Hamilton lost the lead of the drivers’ standings after crossing the line fifth last time out in Turkey, with Verstappen’s second-place finish enough to give him a six-point advantage at the top of the table.

Hamilton fought back from 11th place on the grid following an engine penalty, but had been in contention for a podium before Mercedes opted to keep him out while cars around him pitted for intermediates, only to then bring him in with eight laps remaining.

The decision to was questioned by Hamilton at the time and later analysed by Mercedes, whose data showed the seven-time world champion would have dropped to the back of the points had he not come in when he did.

Mercedes said after the race that it wanted to cut its losses by bringing Hamilton in, and team principal Wolff emphasised the consequences not finishing a race would have on the title fight.

“The whole season swings back and forth,” Wolff said.

“We make mistakes together. We win together. We have much bigger swings in the past with lost opportunities.

“This was a very, very close call. We decided for one thing, and it went wrong.

“At the end, we’ve lost eight points [in Turkey] from Red Bull from a grid penalty. Red Bull [in Russia] were happy with a seven-point loss.

“So it’s going to be very tight until the end. DNFs are going to make a big difference, and that was also a consideration, and not three or four or five-point swings.”

Hamilton has only one DNF to his name so far this season, failing to finish the Italian Grand Prix after the collision with Verstappen that resulted in the Red Bull driver being sanctioned.

Verstappen also retired in that clash, with his other DNF coming at the British Grand Prix following contact with Hamilton on the opening lap of the race. Hamilton was handed an in-race penalty, but he recovered to win the grand prix for Mercedes.

Verstappen failed to see the chequered flag in Baku after suffering a puncture while leading, but was classified after completing more than 90% of the race distance. 

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