‘Karma exists’: Toto Wolff fires warning at Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton were embroiled in an intense title battle last season.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff no longer subscribes to the idea that one should do whatever it takes to win, insisting that he would prefer to win with “humility” and “integrity.”

The comments come months after the highly controversial 2021 championship battle between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen concluded in quintessentially controversial fashion in Abu Dhabi.

The drivers were involved in some extremely abrasive on-track moments, and the drama filtered into Wolff and Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner, who frequently became embroiled in heated disagreements.

Both drivers were, at times, accused of playing dirty, and winning that way is something that, sooner or later, will always be punished in the Austrian’s eyes.

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“You may have someone that wins but doesn’t win in the right way, but that’s not going to last,” said Wolff.

“And karma exists, I’m not looking at one race or one season, I’m looking at ten or twenty years.

“The ‘win at all costs’ mentality is something that I would have endorsed a couple of years ago; today, I still want to win, but I want to win in the right way.

“I have values and a mindset that I want to stand for in the team. 

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“I believe in humility, in honesty, integrity and transparency, these are ingredients that are important in the long term.”

Hamilton has been joined at Mercedes by George Russell this season following the departure of Valtteri Bottas over the winter, and the 24-year-old has out-qualified the seven-time champion six times, beating him seven times in the first 11 races.

Hamilton has been faced with a temperamental car that has not suited him, but he has begun to find a rhythm of late, securing three consecutive podiums.

On another day, he might even have won his home British Grand Prix given his pace advantage, but the late Safety Car that cost him a shot at victory was symptomatic of a season filled with misfortune.

As a result of harsh luck and an underperforming car, Wolff feels the need to protect his driver, and apologise to him on the tough days.

“I need to protect him, because people have started to hit out at him, which is not right, it’s complete nonsense,” he explained.

“He’s the greatest driver of all-time, the car is just sub-par. 

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“George has sometimes struggled a bit less because he’s maybe used to driving difficult cars at the back of the grid, but Lewis was unlucky on many occasions. 

“He could have scored another two podiums and then the pendulum would have swung, so the apology is to make sure that everybody comprehends that the car is not performing, and not that the driver is at fault.”

Going back to the tremendous battle with Verstappen, the 50-year-old remains adamant that Hamilton should have been an eight-time champion, and he is determined to give him another chance to break his tie with Michael Schumacher.

“I think Hamilton should have had an eighth world title last year, everybody knows that, but now we need to make a car that puts him in the position of going for that eighth title and that is fundamentally my responsibility,” added Wolff.

“But that’s good, I’m in control of that situation.”

Mercedes are currently third in the Constructors’ Standings, 122 points adrift of leaders Red Bull who, between Verstappen and Sergio Perez, have taken seven wins this season, including six in a row between the Emilia Romagna and Canadian Grand Prix.