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Wolff Praises Verstappen's Steadfast F1 Defence Style

Wolff Praises Verstappen’s Steadfast F1 Defence Style

06/07/2024

Wolff lauds Verstappen’s consistent defence tactics in F1, as Mercedes progresses but still lags behind top teams.

Is There a Whiff of 2021 in Current F1?

Comparison is not always rationale, of course, but on one hand, the fierce battle between Lando Norris and Max Verstappen on the Austrian track could remind many of the clashes between the same Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton three years ago.

On the other hand, a verbal war has clearly started between the leaders of McLaren F1 and Red Bull (see our article), reminiscent of the ‘good old days’ between Toto Wolff and Christian Horner.

How does Toto Wolff, who witnessed the epic battles of 2021, view the current situation?

First, let’s discuss the incident at the Red Bull Ring, between Lando Norris and Max Verstappen. Who was at fault according to him? Max Verstappen, as judged by the FIA?

“First and foremost, it’s the drivers themselves who know best. Lando and Max get on very well. They will have discussed it. They won’t denigrate each other in the media, but will talk it over, and all the good guys will have a judgment on this, and we’ll see what that means.”

“Secondly, there is a set of rules. And these regulations set limits for the drivers. It’s the same with track limits. Either you’re penalized, or you’re not. The same goes for the style of racing. And as the regulations might be a bit vague, or interpretations differ from time to time, it is clear that the very good drivers will push the limits as much as they can. And we might find ourselves in similar situations.”

“It’s not just these two. I mean, we’ve seen it between the Alpines, etc., etc. So I agree with Zak that the regulations should tell us what’s allowed and what’s not, in the first place.”

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, has precisely accused Christian Horner of encouraging, through his comments, Max Verstappen to break the F1 regulations.

Does Toto Wolff agree?

“It’s always amusing to see comments from the team directors—unilateral comments that always go in the same direction. Let’s be somewhat objective at least.”

Has Max Verstappen’s on-track driving changed between 2021 and 2024? Has the Dutchman softened his aggressive defenses, or not at all, according to Toto Wolff?

“No, I think that’s his way of driving. That’s what I’ve seen in Formula 1 since he arrived. And I don’t want to pass judgment on that. You drive as far as you’re allowed. And I’m not saying it’s good or bad. But you go as far as you can without being penalized. On track limits, you maximize the width you can take. As for the technical regulations, we maximize every detail too.”

“The drivers will thus maximize every element according to what is allowed and what is not. It’s as simple as that.”

Is Mercedes F1 the Third Force at Silverstone Again?

The grand winner of this struggle between Lando Norris and Max Verstappen turned out to be… George Russell, who surprisingly won the Austrian Grand Prix.

Fairly, can Mercedes F1 repeat this feat this weekend, at home in Silverstone? Perhaps not, given the free practice sessions… and Toto Wolff confirms.

“Lando and Max are probably, at the moment, a bit ahead of everyone else. And it’s not just over one qualifying lap where it can be very tight—and even then it wasn’t the case in Austria, on a very short track, they were still a few tenths faster. But in terms of race pace, these two always seem to have an edge.”

“However, we are really striving to bring more tools and toys to the car. So we are going faster and it’s a relentless effort by all the engineering and operations in Brackley and Brixworth to be able to catch up. We were 15 seconds off the leaders in Austria, before the crash. But given the fact that they were exchanging blows at the front, probably a bit more.”

“Our lag? Two tenths and a bit per lap. As long as we are not able to close this gap, we won’t be battling against these two (Lando Norris and Max Verstappen).”

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