Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton’s second-place finish in the Emilia Romagna GP was the equivalent of a “get out of jail free card” for the reigning world champion team.
Mercedes came away from the incident-filled race at Imola – marked by changing conditions, several crashes and a red flag period – with enough points to lead both the Constructors’ and Drivers’ championships.
However, it appeared at one point that the Brackley would return home empty handed after Valtteri Bottas’ collision with George Russell and a rare mistake from Hamilton that left the four-time world champion momentarily stranded in the gravel.
But the Briton’s ability to rejoin the track coupled with a red flag that later allowed him to unlap himself, and a spirited charge from behind, yielded at the end of the day an unexpected runner-up spot behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
“Imola was a crazy race and the kind of grand prix that lives long in the memory: there were so many ups and downs and there were a few moments where it felt like we wouldn’t score any points at all,” said Wolff in Mercedes Portuguese GP preview.
“It was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the disappointment of Valtteri’s scary accident to the thrill of Lewis’ recovery drive.
“To come away leading both Championships almost felt like a get out of jail free card, because our rivals didn’t maximise the opportunity we gave them.
“And it just proves what a challenging season we have ahead of us and how quickly things can turn around in Formula One.”
Portimão will trigger good memories for Mercedes ahead of this week’s third round of the 2021 world championship, as the team scored a 1-2 at the venue six months ago.
But Wolff is anticipating another tight battle with arch-rival Red Bull in Portugal.
“Last year was our first race in Portimão,” commented the Austrian.
“It’s an exciting, undulating track and produced some great racing in 2020; we also saw in qualifying and the opening laps that getting the tyres working properly is not easy.
“It’s still quite a new circuit for everyone, which should make things interesting and mean we are learning all through the weekend.
“We’re expecting another close fight with Red Bull, and both McLaren and Ferrari could also be in the mix too. So, let’s see how things play out in Portugal.”
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