Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has had the experience of both his drivers crashing out on the opening lap of a race, thus he sympathised with the plight of Ferrari after Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the Singapore Grand Prix moments after the red lights turned dark at the start.
It was a race which Vettel was expected to win after a mega qualifying lap 24 hours earlier. But fate had other plans in the form of a huge shunt which effectively eliminated the Reds before they even reached Turn 1. The first time in their history that Ferrari have had both cars retire on the opening lap of a grand prix.
Instead the gods smiled on Lewis Hamilton who powered to a comfortable victory against the odds, on a track that was not supposed to suit Mercedes.
Speaking after the race Wolff said, “In the morning we were talking about damage limitation as we know that Singapore is our Achilles heel – and then we leave Singapore with first and third! So from our perspective it is a fantastic result. But when something like this happens you kind of feel for Ferrari.”
Recalling the incident at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix when Hamilton and Nico Rosberg collided on the opening lap, Wolff said, “I have been in the situation of losing both cars – I know how bitter this is. But then we are not here to take prisoners. So once Lewis was in the lead it was all about delivering the best possible result.”
The Singapore crash grabbed most of the headlines after the race and launched heated debate regarding who was to blame, although the FIA stewards investigated the incident and declared that no driver was predominantly responsible for triggering the shunt.
Wolff gave his opinion on the collision that also eliminated Max Verstappen’s Red Bull, “I think what happened is that Sebastian pulled over but didn’t see that Kimi was on the inside. It was about defending against Max who was there – and it was very difficult to see in that moment that there was a third car. That was what caused the collision.”
Hamilton arrived at Marina Bay Circuit on Thursday leading the championship standings by a mere three points, but by the time the chequered flag waved on Sunday he had extended the gap to a handy 28 points over Vettel.
Asked how he felt after the team’s third win in a row since the end of the summer break, Wolff explained, “My feeling on Saturday and this morning was the opposite of relaxed. You never know what is thrown at you! You can see how quickly it goes in motor racing. In the morning it was all about damage limitation and in the evening we are talking about a 28 point lead in the drivers’ championship.”
Wolff is still wary that anything can happen, and often does in Formula 1, “Six more races means that it could go six times against us in a similar way to how it went against Ferrari today. So it is all about concentrating on every single race and trying to optimise the result.”
Big Question: What does Mercedes have to fear in the drivers’ championship?