Time has clearly done little to diminish Toto Wolff’s anger at the incident in Baku which robbed Valtteri Bottas of certain victory.
In the moments after the safety car period that followed the clash involving the two Red Bull drivers, Romain Grosjean crashed out after being a little over enthusiastic in attempting to generate heat into his tyres, and shortly after teammate Kevin Magnussen collided with Pierre Gasly, a move which cost the Dane a 10s time penalty and two points on his licence.
However, in a further twist, debris on the track following the incident left race leader Valtteri Bottas with a puncture and in the final laps was passed by his teammate who took his first win of the season.
“Baku for me was a shock,” Wolff told Motorsport.com. “I was very annoyed and very upset because of this whole manoeuvre.
“Magnussen v Gasly was crazy, and should have been severely penalised,” he said of the initial clash. “Then the debris being on the track from this sh*t fight, at this sh*t place at the back of the grid costing Valtteri this win is shameful. It is shameful. This is one of the worst moments for me this year.”
Ahead of the Baku race, the Mercedes pair were separated by just five points, but as the season progressed so the gap grew, and by the time of the summer break there was already talk of the Finn playing ‘wing man’ for his teammate. At season end, having failed to score a victory and finishing fifth in the standings, Bottas described 2018 as his worst season ever.
Reflecting on those early season results, Wolff insists, that but for that bad luck in Baku, and previously in China, where Bottas lost out during a safety car period, and Bahrain, it could have been different.
“I think if he would have won those three races, he would have been easily in the lead of the championship after Baku,” said Wolff. “I think for a racing driver, not competing for the championship any more, if this is everything that you are in there for, it is very difficult.
“We have seen with Valtteri the two times when he could not drive for the championship anymore and we had to back Lewis, because he had more points, you could see that there is a drop of performance. I think it affects every driver. So if he stays in the hunt… that makes a big difference.”