Mercedes boss Toto Wolff defends F1 CEO over Netflix conspiracy theories

Mercedes boss hopes ‘robbed’ Lewis Hamilton will continue racing

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Toto Wolff has dismissed the idea that the controversial ending to the 2021 season was manufactured by F1 bosses for entertainment purposes. The Austrian said he was sure that F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali would have “no interest in interfering with the racing”.

Several conspiracy theories circled on the internet after the title race was decided in controversial circumstances.

Lewis Hamilton led for much of the finale in Abu Dhabi, but with a few laps to go the safety car was called out after Nicholas Latifi crashed.

That allowed Max Verstappen to close the gap – though the laps were ticking down and there were several back markers between him and Hamilton that he was not allowed to overtake.

Race director Michael Masi had initially ordered those backmarkers to stay in their positions, but later U-turned and told those between Verstappen and Hamilton that they could unlap themselves.

Mercedes were furious that Verstappen was able to catch right up to Hamilton and were worried that the Dutchman was on fresher tyres and so would have the advantage if racing resumed.

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And they were incensed when Masi gave the go-ahead for one final lap of racing despite some cars having not yet unlapped themselves, before the Red Bull ace overtook his rival to win the title.

Mercedes felt Masi had broke the rules, while some online fans went further and suggested it was part of a ploy by racing bosses to create a juicier story for the annual Netflix documentary.

While it’s certainly true that Drive to Survive is set to be an incredible watch in 2022, Mercedes boss Wolff has laughed off suggestions that the finale was affected by a desire for TV ratings.

“I would never want to put such things in [the media] and I would never say such things because at the end, we provide entertainment but entertainment needs to follow sport and not the other way around,” the Austrian said.

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“The rules are the rules, the consistency of the application of the rules is important and no decision making should ever happen contrary to the rules just to spice up the action.

“We love Netflix and Drive to Survive. Stefano Domenicali is doing a phenomenal job in marketing the sport and Stefano, as a true racer, would have no interest in interfering into the racing just for the entertainment factor.

“So, I cannot judge the pressures of the race director but in any case, we are so credible as a sport because it is sport and it is not wrestling.”

Meanwhile, Hamilton has been tellingly quiet in public ever since that final race in Abu Dhabi.

He will no doubt be hurting from how he missed out on what would have been a record eighth world title, but his silence has fuelled speculation that he is ready to retire.

Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has poured fuel on those flames by openly stating his belief that the Briton has had enough and will now focus on other ventures.

“I don’t know [what is happening with Lewis Hamilton], but I don’t think he’s coming back. His disappointment is too big. And you can somehow understand it,” he told Swiss outlet Blick.

“Now it would be time to tackle his dream of becoming a fashion entrepreneur with seven World Cup titles like Michael Schumacher.”

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