Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff refused to accept that his star driver Lewis Hamilton made a mistake when vying for the lead of the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
With Max Verstappen crashing out of a commanding lead late in the race, on Sunday, Hamilton lined up second on the grid beside Sergio Perez’s Red Bull for the second start and three-lap sprint to the end.
Sniffing an upset and unlikely victory, seeking maximum points to maximise the damage for Max, the Mercedes driver roared ahead at the restart, but in doing so he clipped a switch that altered the brake behaviour on the W12, as a result, he went straight through Turn 1.
What might have been at least a podium turned into 15th in a flash.
Immediately after the race, incensed Wolff would not accept that Hamilton made a mistake and told Sky F1: “I just need to let him know that this wasn’t because of a mistake by him. He doesn’t make mistakes and I wouldn’t have anybody else in that car.”
Blame it on magic buttons, a slip of the wrist, whatever, no matter how you look at it there was ‘an error in action’ aka a mistake by Hamilton that caused the Mercedes to not turn right when it should have.
On Sunday in Baku, there were shades of Imola earlier this year where Hamilton out-braked himself and ended in the kitty-litter. Only good fortune allowed him to recover and finish second that day. But this time the Briton paid the price.
Even geniuses err, no point covering it up and it is increasingly clear, with margins so tight, the 2021 F1 title will be decided by the driver that makes the least errors during the course of the season.
Both Max and Lewis are making mistakes because the pressure is very much on in this epic title battle and will ramp up with every race.
The best thing that could have happened for neutrals and the championship is both front-runners slipping up as they did on Sunday, turning it into a point-less weekend for the pair who could’ve gone fishing together on the day, the points haul would have been the same.
Later, in the team report, Wolff avoided going into detail about the incident, simply signing off by saying: “In Monaco and here [Baku] we didn’t have a car that was competitive, full stop. We have underlying issues. We are not getting the car in a happy window for the tyres.
“We know the deficit and we know we have gaps that we simply have to overcome. I have no doubt, this a team which is so strong and so angry, and we are going to turn that anger into positive form and come back,” declared the Merc team boss.
In the wake of the zero-points stalemate, Hamilton, who until that stage of the race had been in top form pursuing the Red Bulls, trails Max Verstappen by four points in the drivers’ standings while Mercedes have dropped 26 points behind the F1 constructors’ championship leaders heading to Round 7 in France next.
From to 🤩 to 😱 in seconds. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster this weekend, Team. pic.twitter.com/NQAAb8rkjJ
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) June 6, 2021