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Inside Line: The Fat Lady has yet to sing but it is over

It will take divine intervention to prevent Lewis Hamilton from winning this year’s Formula 1 World Championship, his fifth title in the top flight, but Mercedes chief Toto Wolff is adamant that the battle is still on, far from over and nothing is guaranteed.

Needless to say, the ultra-cautious preview he released ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, has been subject to understandable derision among fans. Toto, it is over!

Consider the maths: if Vettel wins in Mexico, Hamilton must finish seventh to win the title; if Vettel is second or lower in Mexico, Hamilton is world champion – one seventh or better in the next three races! And Vettel has to win the next three races…

Nevertheless, you have to sympathise with Toto because he is doing what he has to do, maintain the sense of contest to keep this year’s script alive for at least another race. But the excellence of his own team, belittles his apprehension.

I would imagine he had ‘penned’ in his head a totally different Mexico Grand Prix preview, surely everyone in silver  in Austin believed they would be unboxing ‘Lewis World Champ 2018!’ T-shirts on Sunday afternoon, especially after their title ‘rival’ Sebastian Vettel was once again facing the wrong way on track, dropping him down the order etc etc – same old story – when he should have been heading the other way at the sharp end of proceedings.

Gift in hand the Merc pitwall somehow went on to fumble the opportunity to party hard in party town Austin. In short the ‘battle’ resumes in Mexico City.

After the United States Grand Prix, Toto probably sat down with his media people to decide on how to spin things and they came up with the instantly classic quote:

“This year’s championship fight is far from over – Toto Wolff.”

That’s Toto. You cannot dislike the guy because he is so passionate about his team, racing is in his blood, can wear his heart on his sleeve, oozes enthusiasm, tries to do the right thing but most importantly runs a transparent operation with tons of insight pre and post-race on how the world champions go about their business. They are also F1 off-track champs in my book

I bet in his heart, or perhaps to close confidantes in private, he would love to say after the weekend in Texas: “We should have wrapped it up on Sunday in Austin. Ferrari and Seb messed up again, but this time we could not make it count. Our guys got their sums wrong with the strategy, but so what? We got third!”

“Mission accomplished. We leave America a step closer to the title for Lewis which we all know is now a done deal. He needs only one seventh place in three races, it’s a no-brainer.”

“In Mexico, we will unbox the T-shirts, it will be ours on Sunday. And if not then we still have two more Sundays where the maths will only get more impossible for the other guys. Then we will focus on the constructor’s championship and swing some payback to the #77 car. I want to make it ten titles in five years.”

“I am not sure what’s going on at Maranello. Kimi and Seb seem not to be teammates anymore, in Austin Kimi was better in the heat of battle than Seb. Kimi has been a loyal wingman for so many years, now when it mattered he started doing his own thing. Strange. It would not happen with our drivers.”

“But honestly, the way Seb is driving, even in that 1886 Mercedes (pictured above) Lewis would beat him. I am not sure what’s wrong with Seb. I am sorry for him. Seb needs a perfect car to do well and even when he had that he messed it up. Hockenheim!!! Maybe that was the first of the psychological blows, self-inflicted.”

“But let’s face it from Monza we murdered them. Lewis was a monster, Valtteri did his wingman role perfectly, the team was brilliant. We brought our A-game when it mattered and at times when our rivals had the best car. I am proud that after defeat in Belgium we bounced back like true champions and humiliated them in their own backyard. I love that!”

“With Lewis in the best form ever, we went alien by winning four in a row and that was that. We did the business when it mattered and after Suzuka, it was only a matter of time. I left Japan knowing it was over. I thought it would happen at COTA, but no it will be Mexico or Brazil or Abu Dhabi – it will happen.”

“However I will stick my neck out by predicting that the Fat Lady will sing at Autodrome Hermanos Rodriguez,” concluded Wolff.

Please note: Toto DID NOT say the above, but maybe some of it is on the tip of his tongue…

Wolff: The championship fight is far from over [!!!]