Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has warned that the FIA’s decision not to reinvestigate the Turn 4 incident between Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton last time out in Brazil will influence the standard of racing in Formula 1 going forward.
The Mercedes F1 Team, in addition to many pundits and drivers, felt that Verstappen deliberately forced Hamilton off the track in Brazil to stop the Brit from taking the lead of the 2021 Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
However, the stewards opted not to penalise Verstappen and the FIA on Friday rejected Mercedes’ request for a review of the incident.
Speaking on Saturday ahead of this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix, Wolff warned that the verdict encourages F1 drivers to “wreck other cars off-line”, as last weekend’s incident sets a precedent for drivers doing this and escaping punishment.
“I think it’s a very surprising outcome,” said Wolff in conversation with Sky Sports.
“Because irrelevant of how Brazil has been judged – I think that’s water under the bridge – still in my opinion what it says is you that you can launch yourself into a corner and wreck the other car off-line.
“That can obviously lead to quite some dirtier driving going forward, and what I said to some of the stakeholders was we don’t want to have a messy situation tomorrow, in Saudi Arabia, in Abu Dhabi, because that would be really bad.”
Continuing, he emphasised that Mercedes aren’t the only ones in the F1 paddock who were surprised by the FIA’s verdict and believe a penalty should have been dished out.
“All the drivers that spoke up said that it was a decision that was surprising to them and that obviously you need to adapt your driving style to that new situation,” the Austrian said.
“So yeah, still surprising for everybody that’s in the car and for us too.”
Earlier this week, Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc said he would be “adapting his driving” based on the ruling, with him likely to drive more aggressively if Verstappen goes unpunished for forcing Hamilton off the circuit.
Speaking at a press conference in Qatar on Friday, Leclerc said: “You always need to adapt to every situation, every decision the stewards are doing.”
The Ferrari driver subsequently gave the FIA’s decision not to penalise Verstappen in Austria earlier this season as an example of a stewards’ decision which impacted the way he races.
“As soon as it wasn’t a penalty for Max in Austria, I came to Silverstone and changed my driving, so I think that’s a bit the same for every driver, we will always try to race at the limits of what we’re allowed to do.
“That’s what I will do if these things are allowed, honestly I just want it to be clear as a driver, if this is allowed then overtaking around the outside is going to be very difficult, but yeah, whatever the decision is, I’ll just adapt my driving style to it,” he concluded.