Mercedes headed into the first Japanese Grand Prix since 2019 on the back of a disappointing Singapore Grand Prix. However, the sombre mood in the team didn’t stop team principal Toto Wolff from having a laugh with a fan.
Ahead of qualifying last weekend at the Marina Bay Circuit, Mercedes were looking at a potentially very strong result, after appearing very fast in free practice.
Sir Lewis Hamilton incredibly topped his first session of the season in FP1, before qualifying a magnificent third.
George Russell, on the other hand, qualified P11; however, he started from the pitlane after having a new power unit fitted to his W13.
Whilst Russell failed to score any points last Sunday after a challenging race, Hamilton was looking at a potential third place finish.
The seven-time World Champion dropped to fourth on the first lap but remained firmly in the fight for the podium against Carlos Sainz.
It came to an unfortunate end for the 37-year-old, though, as on Lap 33 he locked-up going into Turn Seven whilst in hot pursuit of the Spaniard.
Being a street circuit which was, of course, wet, Hamilton slid straight into the barrier on the exit of the corner.
Thankfully, this only broke his front-wing; however, it still meant that he eventually dropped to ninth after re-joining the circuit and then pitting for a new wing.
Ninth ended up being the end result for the seven-time World Champion, who saw a podium finish slip through his grasp.
The result had huge ramifications on the Germans fight with Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ Championship, as the Italians extended their lead to 69 points following a double podium.
Hamilton apologised for the costly error, which saw the Brackley-based team leave the Singapore GP having scored just two points.
Whilst it would be completely understandable if Wolff were to be downbeat after Singapore, he appeared the complete opposite, and actually had time to answer a brilliant fan question.
In reference to the 2021 Abu Dhabi season finale, where race director at the time Michael Masi “manipulated” the result, a fan asked Wolff a comical question.
“Toto one question, was it Mikey, or Michael?” asked the fan.
Wolff paused at first before answering, “Michael,” to which he then walked off, smiling.
The Mercedes boss shouted down the radio to Masi on the final lap of the finale, after Masi had allowed only the cars in between Hamilton and Max Verstappen to unlap themselves, going against the rulebook.
The 2021 finale has been a hot topic once again this week, as it was leaked that Red Bull have supposedly exceeded the 2021 budget cap.
The FIA were supposed to announce who exceeded the cap on Wednesday; however, it was pushed back to Monday and Red Bull were found guilty of a “minor” breach.
Due to there being a chance that the money spent over the limit could’ve been used towards upgrades, it’s led to outrage amongst the F1 community and the paddock as to whether Verstappen should keep his title or not.