FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi’s pre-race warning over the possibility of points deductions for unsporting conduct has been welcomed by Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
“If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years,” Wolff said in October.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen go into the final race of the season this weekend level on points, with the latter guaranteed to win the title for Red Bull if both fail to finish. Ahead of the race, Masi yesterday used his pre-race event guidance to remind all drivers that the stewards have the power to confiscate points.
Wolff welcomed the step Masi had taken ahead of the final round. “I think that with all the controversies we had in the last few races – and again this is probably a matter of different perceptions from different camps – it is very good that Michael and the FIA have come out with a reminder of what the ISC stands for.
“And I think [this] coming out is maybe a good deterrent for everyone to keep the racing clean, what is on and what is not on, that simply not only the real race result will matter for a championship but also the driving standards.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Masi’s statement has come at Wolff’s instigation. “I can see why Toto and Lewis with the disadvantage of race wins would be pushing for that,” he said.
“But nobody’s going into this race to say it’s going to end in a crash. There’s been great speculation about it but our focus is on trying to win this on track and trying to do it at the chequered flag.”
Horner said any decision by the stewards should be consistent with past calls made at Silverstone and the Hungaroring, where Verstappen lost significant ground in the championship to Hamilton following collisions.
“It’s one of 22 races,” said Horner. “What’s the difference between this race, for example, and Silverstone or Hungary? There has to be consistency of stewarding, of penalties. I think that’s the thing that drives people more mad than anything else is when there is perceived to be an inconsistency.
“That piece of sporting code that’s been highlighted in the notes, that’s always been there, that’s not something that’s been introduced for this weekend.
“Nobody wants to see this championship end up in front of the stewards or in a gravel trap. We want to see these two titans of drivers that have gone wheel-to-wheel so often this year go at it again this weekend. That’s what as a team we want and what as a driver Max wants. There needs to be consistency.”
Speaking to Sky, Wolff said his earlier warning about the possibility of the championship being decided by a crash prompted “some criticism of how could I even suggest such a situation”.
However he believes recent incidents between the title contenders has made it necessary.
“What we’ve seen in Brazil and also maybe in Jeddah was controversial driving,” said Wolff. “Therefore I think it was good that it happened in Jeddah and I think it’s good that the race director came in robust to say what’s on and what is not on and that maybe that is enough deterrent for the drivers.
“And it’s not only Max, but for all drivers to have a clean race on Sunday.”
Several past championship has been decided by controversial collisions, Wolff noted. “I think it would be bad but we’ve seen it before: Prost and Senna ended up in the stewards’ office and the same with Michael [Schumacher] and Damon [Hill], and Michael and [Jacques] Villeneuve. Sometimes it’s part of the game.”
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