BusyFormula #020: Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff apologizes to Red Bull for Bottas incident in Hungary

Mercedes F1 Team Principal Toto Wolff apologized to his rivals at Red Bull for the Turn 1 incident at the Hungarian Grand Prix that took out Sergio Perez and badly damaged Max Verstappen’s Red Bull. That incident meant that Max could only finish P10 on the track, although he would get promoted to 9th after the race due to Sebastian Vettel’s disqualification from the race.

The result at the Hungaroring means that the Red Bull team has scored just 5 points in the last two races, which is the team’s lowest return all season long. As a result, the Red Bull team now trails Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship, despite leading by 44 points before Silverstone.

This dramatic change in fortunes for the Milton Keynes-based outfit triggered a rare apology from Toto Wolff, who said he empathized with what Red Bull was going through. It is important to remember that both teams were locked in a war of words after the incident at Silverstone, which didn’t die down till the FIA rejected Red Bull’s request to review Hamilton’s penalty. It is clear that Mercedes would rather de-escalate the situation than get into another off-track war with Christian Horner and his Red Bull team. 

How it unfolded

The Hungarian Grand Prix surprised many when it served up a rain shower before the lights went out, despite weather forecasts saying it would be a scorching dry race with track temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius.

This meant that all the tyre strategies of the previous day had to be abandoned while everyone put on a set of Intermediate tyres to start the race. And given that no one had run on the intermediates all weekend since all the sessions were dry, no one was certain where the braking point was.

After gingerly getting off the line due to wheel spin, Valtteri Bottas found himself flanked on both sides by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris. That distracted Bottas, who missed his braking point and collided into the back of Lando Norris, who was just a passenger from then on as he crashed into the side of Max Verstappen. After hitting Lando, Bottas ricocheted into Sergio Perez for good measure and ended the Mexican’s race as well.

After the race, while speaking to Sky Sports F1, Toto Wolff apologized to Red Bull, who were the biggest losers in that incident as they had a chance to fight for the win that day. Toto expressed his regret saying that that’s not how it should go. He also accepted the blame on behalf of Mercedes for what happened.

“I completely understand the feelings,” commiserated Toto. “All I can do is to take it on us. It was a small mistake being too late on the brakes and took out Lando and the two Red Bulls, and it’s not how things should go. But in the rain it can be quite tricky.

“The mistake was unfortunate with big consequences. Valtteri got sandwiched by the two cars in front, lost all downforce and then it was already too late.”

When asked about whether he would seek out Red Bull boss Christian Horner and apologize personally, he rejected that in favour of a public apology.

“No, I will do it in public like I’m doing it here with you, that I’m sorry for that.”

Let us hope that Red Bull can take solace from that public acceptance of guilt and apology. Mercedes is keen to keep things civilized between the two teams as the battle heats up again between them on track.

Impact on the championship battle

The two incidents from Silverstone and Hungary have blown the championship wide open again. It looked like Red Bull had Max Verstappen had run away with it before Silverstone.

Max had opened up a 33 point lead over Lewis, and Mercedes had gone five races without a win for the first time in the hybrid era. It was beginning to look like the Red Bull was just too fast for the Mercedes package, always finding an extra three tenths when it mattered most.

However, Silverstone came with a raft of new upgrades for the Mercedes team, which actually worked. That was proven by Hamilton getting pole both at Silverstone and in Hungary. The fact that the return of Mercedes’ form has coincided with Red Bull’s run of black means that we go into the summer break with the underdogs leading the championship.

I can’t wait to see what the second half of the season has in store for us. Will Red Bull finally get lady luck back on their side and run away with the title like they wanted to? Or will Hamilton give us another Hamilton special and go on a streak in the second half of the season like he did to Vettel? Either way, I can’t wait to find out!

Julius Kakwenzire is a self-confessed F1 addict. When he’s not getting emotional at the race track’s proceedings, he’s working on great fintech products at Lupiiya.

Julius Kakwenzire