Formula One

Toto Wolff calls out Verstappen on qualifying block against Hamilton

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Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

Lewis Hamilton suffered a surprising exit in the first qualifying segment of the Sprint Shootout, which set the grid for Saturday’s sprint race at the Red Bull Ring.

The British driver recorded a lap time that was good enough to see him progress to SQ2, but that was deleted after he exceeded track limits in the penultimate corner. He was also affected by an on-track incident against Max Verstappen, which left him and Mercedes unhappy.

As Hamilton was preparing to start another attempt, he was being followed by Verstappen, who was finishing his own flying lap. With extra momentum out of the final corner, the Red Bull drew alongside the Mercedes on the start-finish straight. The Dutchman did not back out even after crossing the finish line and the battle continued up to Turn 1.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton, but abandoned his new lap on the exit of Turn 1. Hamilton also lost time in the squabble and backed off on the straight leading to Turn 2. The incident was not reviewed by the stewards, so no penalties were handed out to either driver.

The session concluded with Hamilton in eighteenth and out of SQ2. He would regain a lot of ground early in the Sprint, which started in wet conditions, but was unable to score points as he only finished tenth.

The matter was discussed by Toto Wolff when he spoke to Sky Sports after Saturday’s race.

The mistake happened on our side, the communication between us and Lewis didn’t give him the right information to get out of Max’s way, and no one wants to be in anybody’s way because if you impede, you’re getting penalised, so that was not the aim.

On the other side, Turn 1 was a revenge foul. You know, it was just to make sure that his lap was ruined. So, one was not intentional, the other one was intentional.

But who cares? At the end we looked at whether it was going to change our race or not. But I think they’re going to talk about it in the drivers’ briefing next week.

Verstappen defended himself over the incident. He claimed he was about to start a new flying lap, as he was uncertain if his lap was good enough, because of the significant track evolution caused by rain before the session.

He blocked me into the last corner so I had to brake more and I lost like three tenths, so that wasn’t ideal, I think not correct. There were still a few seconds on the clock so I wasn’t sure if that lap time was going to be safe so I wanted to continue. But ran out of time, space, with the two cars like that, which was a bit of a shame.

Verstappen starts today’s Grand Prix from pole position and his task of a fifth victory in a row looks easy, as his teammate, Sergio Perez, starts down in fifteenth. On the other hand, Hamilton will start in fifth and will look to battle against the Ferraris, the Aston Martins and Perez for a spot on the podium.

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