With Lewis Hamilton on the brink of capturing a fifth Formula One world title, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff revealed he’s living in dread of the Briton suffering a “freak” injury — especially to one of his fingers.
Hamilton opened a 67-point lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with four races left after storming to victory in Japan at the weekend, but Wolff clearly wants to wrap his star driver in cotton wool for the remainder of the season.
“Absolutely freak incidents happen everywhere,” said the Austrian. “I don’t want to even think about him breaking a finger!”
Hamilton could put Vettel out of his misery if he wins the next race at Austin in two weeks and Vettel finishes lower than second — or if he outscores the German by eight points.
But Wolff has warned against complacency after Vettel could only finish sixth following an early collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“It’s important to stay concentrated,” insisted Wolff. “You either have the trophy in your hands or you don’t — and we haven’t got it in our hands.”
“A bad result suddenly wipes off a large chunk of your points,” he added.
“It doesn’t look likely, but this is motor racing. It’s a sport, anything could happen. I don’t want to dwell too much about it because it’s bad karma too, so let’s just go to Austin and get it done.”
Hamilton was cock-a-hoop after leading a Mercedes one-two for his sixth win in seven races and fourth in a row.
It was also his 71st Formula One victory and 50th for the Silver Arrows.
Standing over his car, the Briton said: “Austin is usually a good track for us, so I can’t wait to unleash this beast there.”
– Vettel slump –
Hamilton will back himself to claim a 10th victory of the season in the United States, where he has won every race but one since 2012.
But as Vettel was left hopping mad over the tangle with Verstappen that sent his Ferrari spinning off, Hamilton expressed dismay at his rival’s nose-diving form.
“In terms of Sebastian’s performance, I definitely hadn’t anticipated that they would tail off as they have,” he said, after Vettel’s fading title hopes were all but extinguished.
“I don’t really have an answer for that, it’s not something I’ve really focused on — I’m sure Sebastian could tell why.”
A rampant Hamilton has scored 168 out of a possible 175 points since the British Grand Prix in July — a 75-point swing over a misfiring Vettel in the past seven races.
But Wolff wants Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to go full throttle in the remaining races.
“We like the pressure and embrace it,” he said. “It’s important to re-invent yourself as a team and set new objectives.”
Vettel, beaten by the two Mercedes in Russia a week earlier, tried to put a positive spin on a disastrous Japan race.
“It’s not been an easy couple of weeks,” he said. “But the spirit in the team is unbroken.
“You walk in the garage and the guys are all fired up, so that has certainly helped. We have nothing to lose now and we will give it everything we can.”