Wolff: Backmarkers need “global perspective”

In a move that will surely cause unease among purists, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that during races backmarkers should have a better understanding of what’s happening around them, in order that as they battle for position they do not interfere with the leaders.

In the wake of Sunday’s race, Lewis Hamilton admitted that his hairs stood up when he was lapping Romain Grosjean, who was battling for position with Sergey Sirotkin.

Having ignored a number of blue flags as he battled the Russian, Grosjean caused Lewis Hamilton, who was looking to lap him, to lose almost four seconds to Max Verstappen, the Dutchman almost stealing the lead in the process.

While Wolff appreciates that the likes of Grosjean and Sirotkin have their own races to run, he believes backmarkers need a better understanding of the race in order to prevent them compromising the leaders.

“The first moment obviously you’re angry that you have lost the gap,” said the Austrian. “But you need to accept that these guys are fighting for position and trying to have their own best race. And we have to respect it.

“I think the drivers need to discuss this among themselves,” he continued, “that if the leaders come, and it’s close, that maybe they should have more of a global perspective what’s happening behind them.

“I think that in a racing car sometimes you don’t know what’s happening and just see that the leader is coming and you’re fighting for your own position. You have to respect everybody’s struggle to perform.”

Further back, Valtteri Bottas, who was being pursued by Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, made repeated calls to his team for Nico Hulkenberg, who was ahead, to be blue-flagged in order to allow him through.

However, the rules dictate that blue flags can only be shown when a car is within 1.2s of a slower car ahead, and Bottas was out of range.

Needless to say, Wolff has an answer for that also.

“He was upset because he couldn’t close up to Hulkenberg, which was a shame,” admitted the Austrian. “Kimi struggled less so, but when you look at Daniel, who was on a fresher tyre, on an ultra, probably raw pace two seconds quicker than Kimi, he couldn’t overtake Kimi either.

“So again I think something which we need to look at, whether the gap, the 1.2 seconds, is a gap that needs to be adjusted for street circuits. It’s a rule and we have to respect the rule, and if we can optimise it for the future we have to look at it.”

In recent years, it has become the norm for drivers to call on their teams to raise such issues with (race director) Charlie Whiting, to the extent that they now sound like whiny children who cannot handle the situation and want someone else to sort it out for them.

At the same, time, these days the midfield battles are usually where the action is, and it seems unfair to expect those battling for ‘best of the rest’ to have to roll over for the leaders.

Fact is, we should be seeing less blue flags not more.