Lewis Hamilton won’t ‘bail out’ on Max Verstappen any more, says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

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Lewis Hamilton (left) and Max Verstappen crash at the Italian GP (AFP via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton (left) and Max Verstappen crash at the Italian GP (AFP via Getty Images)

Lewis Hamilton will be taking a “change of approach” in his Formula 1 title battle with Max Verstappen according to his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, and the decision could increase the likelihood of the two making contact on-track once again.

Verstappen was given a grid penalty for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix after the stewards decided he was at fault for the crash at Monza last time out which left the rear of his Red Bull Racing car hanging on the titanium halo protecting Hamilton’s head after they fought hard into turn one.

Earlier this season, of course, the pair clashed on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix as they entered Copse corner, with Verstappen shunted out of the race and the stewards finding seven-time world champion Hamilton at fault on that occasion.

That incident led to a very public spat between both drivers and included Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who criticised Hamilton and the Mercedes team for celebrating their victory in the aftermath of the Verstappen crash.

Ahead of the Russian Grand Prix this afternoon, Wolff explained that Hamilton will be changing tact in order to try and overhaul Verstappen’s lead in the standings, and a more aggressive strategy seems to be the key.

“I think the change of approach is that Lewis decided not to bail out anymore when he thinks the corner is his,” said Wolff.

“Now it needs two to tango, it needs two to understand each other on track when a collision can be avoided.

“You know the point is that these two are racing for a Drivers’ Championship and you can’t expect them to have velvet gloves on. That’s why we see harsh moments like this.”

On the Monza incident, Wolff was fairly magnanimous when discussing the apportioning of blame.

“Sometimes you just need to bail out. Could Max have done it [into turn one]? Probably he would have lost the position.

“I think it’s very difficult and dangerous, you comment with the bias you have, obviously cheering for your driver and your team. Obviously I’m biased and I’m looking at the whole race, how it’s panned out.

“I think they pretty much know what they do. If both wanted to avoid collisions, we would have fewer collisions. If they don’t avoid collisions because they feel it’s right to not bail out or not give room, then we will have more. We are not sitting in the cars.”

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