How Toto Wolff fumed at Lewis Hamilton over car: ‘Always difficult’ | F1 | Sport

This weekend is the first break since the 2022 championship began this year, with Hamilton hoping to avenge his devastating loss to rival Max Verstappen last year. The controversial race in Abu Dhabi sparked a major fallout in the sport, with many Hamilton fans crying foul over the judges decision not to follow normal protocol within the race. In his first comments regarding the race, Hamilton admitted he had hoped for an apology from the FIA, the sports governing body, but wasn’t surprised one was coming.

He said: “Look, I wasn’t expecting an apology and it is not something I have focused on.

“We know that is the way it is, and that was probably not going to happen.

“But at least there is that transparency, and it has been called a human error and that is a positive step.

“We cannot go back unfortunately and change the past so I just look at what I can do now.”

This year there have been some major changes to the cars being raced, as the sport aims to improve wheel-to-wheel racing, as well as overtaking.

Despite a difficult pre-season, Hamilton returned to Mercedes, despite some claims he may turn his back on the sport.

But prior to the end-of-season race in Abu Dhabi last year, Hamilton and Mercedes chief Wolff appeared already on a collision course, as they fell out after the Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton was left incensed with his team’s decision for him to pit, despite holding a third place position with only eight laps remaining of the race.

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“We could have either played it very conservatively and pitted him when Verstappen, Perez at the time pitted and then fought it out on track.

“[We would have] probably come out behind Perez and fight for P4, P3 on track.

“The other thing was to try to go long and either think it’s transitioning to a dry tyre or just not stopping anymore. So there were two possible options that sounded quite good.”

Hamilton was on course to win a record eighth drivers championship in December, but the controversy surrounding the safety car allowed Verstappen to pit and get fresh tyres.

This meant Hamilton was left with old tyres, and the Dutchman was able to pass the Briton easily on the last lap to claim a maiden championship win.

On the team’s radio, Hamilton was heard shouting at how the race had been “manipulated”, while Wolff told the race director Michael Masi the decision was “not right”.

The furious reaction of Wolff contrasted with Hamilton’s silence in the weeks following the race, and former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve claimed this was an indication that the driver wanted to distance himself from his boss.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport in January, Villeneuve gave his analysis of Hamilton’s silence.

He said: “I interpret Hamilton’s silence as him wanting to put some distance between himself and Toto Wolff.

“You can lose with style, whereas Toto behaved like someone who is playing Monopoly. The moment he is losing, he throws the whole board into the air. In doing so, Wolff suffered a lot of image damage, in my opinion.

“Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood.”

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