Mercedes boss dismisses Verstappen complaints about Hamilton

The Mercedes chief gave his take on Hamilton's first-lap pass on Verstappen


Toto Wolff insists Lewis Hamilton did nothing wrong in overtaking Max Verstappen on the first lap of a wild 2023 Australian Grand Prix.

The Dutchman started on pole but was passed by George Russell into Turn 1 and then by Hamilton up the inside of Turn 3 in a nightmare opening for the championship leader.

Verstappen was quick on the team radio to complain, saying Hamilton forced him off track, but the stewards wasted little time in deciding no further action was necessary.

Wolff was asked about the incident after the race, in which Verstappen recovered to win ahead of Hamilton, and absolved his star driver of any wrongdoing.

“We have lots of discussion around racing rules,” Wolff told the media after the 2023 Australian GP. “I don’t think that was a bad one.”

Red Bull’s straight-line speed ‘mind-boggling’

The W14 looked an entirely different machine to the one that struggled in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia when it took to the Albert Park layout.

Snatching second and third in qualifying, there was renewed optimism Russell and Hamilton could take the fight to Verstappen in the Red Bull.

A dreamy start had the Mercedes duo running first and second for a handful of laps, but with Russell’s power unit failure, Hamilton was left a sitting duck to the RB19.

“They [Red Bull] have a straight line speed advantage with the DRS open that is just mind-boggling,” Wolff added.

“But this is the meritocracy of the sport and if you have a car that’s that quick on the straight and you’re doing the right things, then it’s up to us to find the tools to improve the straight-line performance.

“I think we made a good step forward this weekend on single lap and on race pace.

“Is this where our baseline needs to be? I’m not sure. It was a week where we maximised what we have.

“I think it was good to see that we’re racing Ferrari and Aston Martin and we just need to consolidate them and then the more we learn about the car and bring the upgrade packages hopefully we can we can challenge the leaders more.”

Lewis Hamilton ahead of Max Verstappen at the 2023 Australian Grand Prix | Mercedes

Red flag rules need clarifying

The chaotic end to the Australian GP had many criticising the governing body for favouring entertainment over sporting integrity.

Kevin Magnussen crashed on Lap 54 of 58, bringing out the safety car which then became the second red flag of the race, setting up a two-lap shootout.

While good for certain fans, a plethora of drivers slammed the decision, including the top three finishers.

Wolff insists he is all for delivering entertainment but called for more clarity on what constitutes a red flag so teams can be better prepared in future.

“I think why Formula 1 is so successful is because we explore and follow the rulebook, but that gives great entertainment.

“I think as long as it’s clear how this has been interpreted I’m fine. Whether you call a VSC or a safety car or red flag, as long as we understand so we are able to plan a little bit so it’s the same for everyone.

“We just need to define what it is. I think restarts are mega, but when they come as a surprise, and you can’t really understand, then the maybe not so much.

“But I’m generally in favour of making great entertainment but the rulebook of the sport is the key DNA.

“Let’s define all together what is a VSC, what is a safety car, what is a red flag.”

Andrew Wright
Andrew Wright
Sports Journalist for
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