SEPTEMBER 18, 2017
Singapore not preliminary title decision says Wolff
Toto Wolff has hit back at suggestions Sunday in Singapore was a 'preliminary decision' for a fourth world championship title for Lewis Hamilton.
With the first-corner crash between Max Verstappen and both Ferraris, including Hamilton's title rival Sebastian Vettel, the fifth-placed qualifier Hamilton ultimately dominated and won in Singapore.
Niki Lauda, the Mercedes team chairman, told Bild newspaper the now 28-point gap between Hamilton and Vettel is effectively a "preliminary decision".
"I would not get carried away with such a statement," he explained. "I can only smile inside to myself.
"But it is a big step forward. Of course the world championship is only won when it is won."
Team boss Wolff, however, is much more cautious.
"In the morning we were thinking about damage limitation," he said, "and in the evening we were talking about a 28 point advantage.
"Now there are six more races, which means the situation can turn against us six times, as happened today for Ferrari," Wolff added.
As for the blame for the crash, Ferrari caused an uproar on Twitter by pointing the finger squarely at Max Verstappen.
And Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene said on Italian television: "It was clearly Verstappen's fault."
But according to De Telegraaf newspaper, the Red Bull driver hit back: "If you're going for the championship like Vettel, you don't have to take so much risk."
Max's father Jos agreed, telling Bild newspaper: "You would expect a four-time world champion to be more far-sighted."
As for the next races, Lauda continues to smile -- because Singapore was clearly the biggest hurdle for Mercedes to clear ahead of the final six races of 2017.
"Already in Malaysia it's going to be better for us," said the F1 legend. "It (Sepang) is a permanent race circuit, so if we stay with the same performance, we should be back up with Ferrari."