Toto Wolff smirks as he fires jibe at Michael Masi for ‘robbing’ Lewis Hamilton

The Italian Grand Prix ended under the Safety Car on Sunday, with Max Verstappen taking the win.

Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, affirmed that the end of the Italian Grand Prix ended in the right way after race control “followed the rules.”

Sir Lewis Hamilton started 19th on Sunday after taking grid penalties for an engine change, while team-mate, George Russell was promoted to second following further penalties for Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.

The reigning champion quickly made his way up to second past Russell, and the one-stop strategy ultimately paid dividends as he jumped Charles Leclerc in the pit stop phases.

Russell remained in third thereafter for the majority of the afternoon, while Hamilton, having initially been stuck in a DRS train, climbed up to fifth behind Sainz after pulling off a double overtake on Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly.

READ: Toto Wolff comments on Nyck de Vries’ future in Formula 1

At a Monza Circuit that was expected to work against his team, Wolff was pleased with the result as Russell claimed his seventh podium of the season.

“You see that we are on tracks that don’t suit us, that also we are clearly third on the road” he told Sky Sports.

“So, three and five is probably the maximum exploit.”

The 50-year-old initially feared that it might be a long day for Hamilton, but once he got going, nobody was stopping his ascent into the points.

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“It wasn’t enjoyable at the beginning!” smiled Wolff.

“He looked a little bit stuck, but then once the tyres came together, he was very quick.”

Leclerc and Sainz marginally extended Ferrari’s advantage over Mercedes in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Standings, but that chase is far from over.

“I think it’s all to play [for],” explained Wolff.

“We are 35 points behind with six races left, we just need to do the best every single weekend and see whether we come out second.”

It was put to Wolff that finishing second in the standings might “soften the blow” of what has been a tremendously difficult 2022 season due to the misbehaving W13 car.

“It would maybe a bit, but there is more blows that we are ending up 30 seconds behind the leader,” added the Austrian.

“That is the gap that we need to catch up.”

The race ended under a Safety Car after Daniel Ricciardo stopped on track having picked up a mechanical problem.

The recovery vehicle that was picking the car up started reversing with the McLaren in tow as the drivers were making their way through on a live track, and that mess was compounded by the fact that the Safety Car failed to pick up leader Verstappen.

It then took an age for the rest of the drivers to make their way back round to the back of the train, and time ran out to get the race restarted under green flag conditions.

At the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year, former race director Michael Masi allowed a limited number of lapped cars through so that the championship finale did not finish under a yellow flag.

Verstappen passed Hamilton to win the title, causing uproar at Mercedes, and Masi was eventually removed from his position as a result.

This time, the Mercedes boss feels that the correct procedure was followed.

“The race direction is going to be under critics, but this time, they followed the rules,” asserted Wolff.

“Maybe they could have done it a lap earlier or let George through, but at least they followed the rules and they accept that the race ends under the Safety Car.

“This is how it should be, or shouldn’t have been…”

Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries will cut his ties at the end of the season, but he debuted at incredibly short notice with the Williams team last weekend, scoring points in ninth.

While Wolff has no control over the Dutchman’s career, he indicated that he would love to see him earn a place in the pinnacle of motorsport next season.

READ: Formula 1 needs Mercedes to give Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a worthy car

“What else should he do in terms of performance than what he has shown today?” he asked, rhetorically.

“No training, jumped in a car that he hadn’t driven, straight into FP3, yeah, he showed what he’s capable of doing.”

Verstappen’s win in Italy was his tenth of the season, and he leads Leclerc by 116 points in the Drivers’ Standings.