“The true strength of a team reveals itself in what individuals are prepared to sacrifice for the group,” says Toto Wolff ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. “Valtteri was willing to sacrifice his win in Sochi to help protect our 1-2 and extend our lead in both championships – and he said he’d be prepared to do the same again tomorrow. That tells you everything you need to know about the quality and integrity of his character. Valtteri proved in Sochi that he is a race-winning Grand Prix driver: he put it on pole, controlled the race and had the pace to win. And he also showed that he is a great team player when we need him to be in the final stages of the season.
“It wasn’t an easy call to make even though it was the right one for the points situation. I think every one of us was facing this struggle between our head and our heart on Sunday, but there is no hard-and-fast rule or matrix you can apply. Whatever scenarios you think through, the old military saying is that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, and we saw that again in Russia with how the race unfolded. Each call has its own context and we may face more tough moments before the year is over. But we will handle each one on its merits and face them together, as a strong team.
“In the end we left Sochi with a bigger lead in both championships. But we know that doesn’t mean anything because our fight with Ferrari is far from being over. We can take nothing for granted and we will stay at maximum attack on every front in the next races. The battle with Ferrari remains extremely close, as was underlined by Sebastian’s pace on Sunday and the pressure he put us under. Lewis was in Brackley this week and is hungry, focussed and completely determined to succeed: it has been great to see the power he has brought to this championship, and how he has taken it to the next level since the summer break.
“Suzuka will be another challenging weekend for us – we will need the very best from our team, our car and our drivers to come out on top. It’s a track that shows some similarities to Silverstone, where we didn’t perform as strongly this year as we had done in previous seasons. So we’re going to Japan knowing that we all have to be at our very best if we want to claim the win.”