Toto Wolff has picked a controversial moment at the Hungarian Grand Prix as his Formula 1 highlight of 2017.
Toward the end of the race, Valtteri Bottas agreed to team orders and allowed Lewis Hamilton to pass him for third place. It was part of an effort to put pressure on the two Ferraris leading the race.
Although he quickly pulled away from his team mate, Hamilton ultimately wasn’t able to close the gap on Kimi Raikkonen. That left the team with a difficult call about whether to order their drivers to switch back.
Eventually that’s exactly what happened. The swap cost Hamilton three championship points, allowing Sebastian Vettel to go into the summer break with a 14-point lead in the drivers standings.
In a tight season, those three points could have ended up deciding the title. Wolff had been under no illusion about what had been at stake, but he was proud of the way it had been handled.
“My Formula 1 highlight is probably Hungary,” Wolff said. “For me, [it] was a very difficult race, and very difficult decision-making at the end of the race.
“But somehow [it] was important to reconfirm the values of the team,” he insisted.
It was certainly very different to previous seasons when Hamilton gave absolutely no quarter to his Nico Rosberg.
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“I kept my word – I said that if I couldn’t pass Kimi then I would let Valtteri back,” Hamilton said at the time. “I believe in doing the right thing and that when you put good things out there, they come back to you.
“Perhaps I will look at it in a different way if, at the end of the season, I lose out by a small margin,” he had added. “[But] I have said through this year that I want to win this title in the right way.”
The move certainly seemed to allow Hamilton to bank some positive credit in terms of his relationship with Bottas.
“Lewis and the team kept their promise,” the Finn said. “I don’t think every team-mate would do that in a championship fight. I think that was really nice of him. It shows that he is a real team player.”
Wolff said that it had been “a great day for the team because we saw our ethos played out for everybody to see with great respect between Lewis and Valtteri.
“These are the values that helped us win six championships. And in the long term it is the approach that will win us many more titles.”
Ultimately the points lost in the manoeuvre proved academic, with Hamilton winning the title by 46 points. Even so, it remains Wolff’s on-track highlight at the end of a long season.
Off-track, however, it’s another matter.
“My personal highlight was the birth of my son,” he admitted. “This goes beyond anything else.”
Wolff and his wife Susie, a former Williams F1 test and development driver, welcomed their first child together in April.
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