Brazil woke up the lion in Hamilton, says Wolff

22 November 2021 - 07:47 By Reuters
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 21 2021 in Doha.
Race winner Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes celebrates on the podium during the Formula One Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail International Circuit on November 21 2021 in Doha.
Image: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton has turned adversity into advantage and is back to his 'brutal' best in the Formula One title battle with Red Bull's Max Verstappen, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has said.

"They have woken up the lion on the Saturday in Interlagos," the Austrian told reporters after Hamilton won the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix.

The Briton's second win in the space of eight days closed the gap at the top to eight points after Verstappen had gone 21 clear on a controversial Saturday in Brazil.

Sao Paulo's Interlagos hosted a sprint event, with points awarded to the top three on the Saturday before the main event on Sunday. Hamilton went from first to back of the grid for that 100km sprint after his car's rear wing failed a technical inspection, but fought back to fifth before an engine penalty demoted him back to 10th on the grid for Sunday's race. He still won the grand prix, cutting Verstappen's lead to 14 points and then slashed it further with a pole to flag win in Qatar, the last of a triple-header of races on successive weekends.

"He’s absolutely on it. Brutal and cold-blooded,"  Wolff said of the Briton, who started Sunday's race on pole position and won by 25 seconds.

"This is the best in Lewis, and we’ve seen it in the past. He's right there."

Two races remain, in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi, and Hamilton's hopes of a record eighth title are back on and gathering strength.

"I think when adversity happens,  it takes him to a place where he’s able to mobilise superhero powers," declared Wolff.

"It was the adversity that triggered that in Interlagos."

Hamilton and Mercedes have spent much of the year saying Red Bull have the quicker car but it does not seem that way now, with Mercedes showing impressive straight line speed. The new engine Hamilton collected in Brazil was not raced in Qatar, held back for Saudi Arabia's new super-fast street circuit in Jeddah.

"Saudi should be a good track for us," Wolff told Sky Sports television.

"But we know this year when you think it’s a good one it can turn the other way around, but it’s a long straight. We’ll get our spicy engine out for Saudi Arabia that we didn’t use (here)."

Meanwhile, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was given an official warning after he blamed a "rogue marshal" for  Verstappen's grid penalty at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix. The Briton apologised after the race and agreed to participate in an international stewards' programme next February.

Verstappen was given a five-place grid penalty, dropping him from the front row to seventh, after he failed to slow for waved yellow warning flags on his flying lap at the end of Saturday's qualifying. The Dutch 24-year-old ended the race in second place, his lead over Mercedes' seven-times world champion Hamilton cut to eight points with two races remaining in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull are five points behind Mercedes in the constructors' standings. The stewards said the marshal concerned was "doing his job in precisely the manner prescribed in the International Sporting Code."

Horner, who made his original comments to Sky Sports television before the race, returned to the broadcaster after the hearing to make an apology.

"I'd like to make it clear that marshals do a wonderful, wonderful job," he said.

"They are volunteers, they do a great job. My frustration in what I voiced earlier wasn't at marshals, it was at a circumstance. If any offence was taken by any individual then obviously I apologise for that."

Horner and his Mercedes counterpart Wolff have been engaged in verbal sparring for much of the season but the Briton denied he was feeling the pressure in the intensity of the championship battle.

"I think we've actually been pretty good with our emotions," he said.

"I haven't been pointing and swearing at cameras and that kind of thing."


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