Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton the opposite of a dirty driver after the seven-time Formula 1 champion came under fire with accusations from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner at the British Grand Prix.
Horner was angered by the collision between Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the start of the race that left his driver needing to be examined in hospital, describing Hamilton’s move as “just dirty driving” at the time. Horner remained extremely critical of Hamilton after the race and claimed he put Verstappen in danger, but Wolff believes the way his driver reacted to negate a 10-second time penalty and secure victory shows he had a clear conscience about the clash.
“When you hear the comments about his driving and the incident, Lewis is the contrary of someone who ever drives dirty,” Wolff said. “I think he’s a sportsman. We have not seen any big incidents with him and that’s why he keeps his demeanors. You saw that the incident wasn’t particularly bothering him.”
Despite seeing such fierce criticism from Horner, Wolff says he understands why the Red Bull team principal would be so strong in his views given what he had to deal with.
“When you lose a car, have such a heavy accident, and your driver has to go to hospital for precautionary checks, you are upset, emotions are high, and I respect that,” Wolff said.
Wolff also thinks the incident hasn’t increased the intensity level too much from his point of view given the tough battle Mercedes has been facing against Red Bull so far this season.
“This championship was always very intense because we are fighting with everything we have in order to hold onto this championship while knowing we are not performing as Red Bull and Honda,” he added. “Therefore, we’ve had big points losses in the past and (at Silverstone) we scored big points, so that is always balancing itself out.”
Relive the messages shared to FIA Race Director Michael Masi from Red Bull and Mercedes post-incident #BritishGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/56CHVqtGIE
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 19, 2021
Mercedes was aligned on its view of the incident as a team, with Valtteri Bottas also backing up his teammate both on the team radio during the race and afterwards.
“Well, I saw them fighting through lap one, a bit like (in the Sprint),” Bottas said. “I had a feeling something is going to happen, but they were fighting hard. That kind of thing, that happens, it’s racing. It can happen when you fight hard, when you don’t give up. I’m just happy that Max is fine because it was a big shunt. Also, I really feel like Lewis fully deserved the win.”