It's hard to imagine what Toto Wolff has been through this Sunday afternoon. For the first time in six years, the Mercedes boss lost a race weekend and had to follow at a distance, as his team was simply out of control. And we don't even want to start with the head of Ferrari Mattia Binotto. But from the beginning.
Already in qualifying, the Silver Arrows had to let the wild Red Bulls and a strengthened Vettel pass and found themselves unknown in the starting positions three and four. And while world champion Hamilton put pressure on the leader, it was not enough for a position as leader of the flock. When the smoke came out of Valtteri Bottas and the Finn had to park his car on lap 52, the lousy weekend (by Mercedes standards) seemed perfect. After all, the Silver Arrows from Austria in 2018 no race due to technical defects had to end prematurely. But that wasn't the end of the drama.
Because during the safety car phase, in which the car Bottas was removed safely from the area of the track, they decided to Red Bull to put Max Verstappen back in the pits and give the command, but with the softest, the red tires reappear in second place. And as if he had known what was waiting for him, Hamilton approached Team Radio to his race engineer Peter "Bono" Bonnington: "I'm too easy a prey". So easy, even, that the young Dutchman with an exceptional talent still bagged him in the first round after restarting in the air. The Albon team's colleague meanwhile cheated Sebastian Vettel on the Ferrari and suddenly it seemed that the leader of his boys' team, Christian Horner, with a first and third place could make the perfect next birthday present.
Brazilian Grand Prix: In the end, the hell broke loose
And while we all feared that this would really be the last thrilling scene of another otherwise exciting race, only a few laps later, the hell broke loose – and probably also the sweat glands of Mattia Binotto . The Ferrari youngster Charles Leclerc had just passed his team-mate Sebastian Vettel with an elegant maneuver, but the four-time world champion didn't just want to sit on it and started a counterattack. Some will say that Leclerc didn't give him enough space, others that Vettel should have realized that there was not enough space. However, the cars touched, causing tires to land on both cars and the end of the race for Ferrari. Leclerc said after the race, he expected Vettel inside not outside and Sebastian himself saw the blame in retrospect, not with his teammate.
In any case, drivers, teams and fans found themselves in an extremely unknown situation at the 66th round of 71 simultaneously. Only one Mercedes and no Ferrari among the top five? Almost unthinkable and yet reality. So when Mercedes decided that Hamilton would lift new tires during the safety car phase where the Ferraris were evicted from the track and let it fall back to fourth place, the whole world turned around. If Bernd Milner had led the race to the finish line with the safety car, three Honda engines would have risen to the podium with two Red Bulls and one Toro Rosso. But things should be different: after a recovery in flight, Hamilton Gasly passed Toro Rosso and then chased Alexander Albon, who was just before his first podium in Formula 1. The only problem: the gap that Hamilton wanted to exploit to his advantage, he closed again and so he gave the world champion a free kick six times the rookie from the race and found himself behind Gasly.
With a surprising ending in which Pierre Gasly, as he later said, even dropped into the car to accelerate, the Frenchman scored a spectacular second place, followed closely by Hamilton and Carlos Sainz at McLaren, which somehow fell from the grid 20 had moved to a strong fourth place. Gasly then stepped onto the podium for the first time in his career – right in the season, in which he had been demoted in the middle of the calendar for the Red Bull mother ship in the Toro Rosso daughter team. A relief that was evident in his shouts on the team's radio.
Hamilton and the Damocles sword of the administrator
And this has not stopped the drama. While Hamilton was still awarded third place on the podium and in the press conference, it was a possible time penalty for the administrators, due to the incident with Albon, like a sword of Damocles over his head – and should fall. A penalty of 5 seconds brought him to seventh place and promoted Carlos Sainz, who had never been on the podium so far, in third place. A success that perhaps was not celebrated in front of millions of viewers, but still duly with the McLaren team.
Hamilton, the true gentleman, apologized to Alexander Albon several times, wrote on Instagram: "I gave everything to win the way I unfortunately clashed with Alex Albon, I would like to apologize to him. How difficult it can be, but also who has a great career ahead of him ". Albon himself wrote: "This race is a bit bad, but it is racing".
In any case, after all the excitement, it's hard to imagine what we should do until March, when Formula 1 turns on for the winter break two weeks after the end of the season. However, Toto Wolff will probably be busy editing his diary, so he will never lose a race again.