Wolff jokes: ‘Maybe Red Bull did it on purpose?’ after Verstappen issue

Toto Wolff has joked that Red Bull deliberately hampered Max Verstappen’s qualifying at the F1 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to make the race more entertaining.
Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1
Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1

After looking near-certain to take pole position in Jeddah, Verstappen’s qualifying came to a premature end after he suffered a driveshaft mechanical failure in Q2.

It means Verstappen will start down in 15th on the grid for Sunday’s race.

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Given Verstappen and Red Bull’s significant margin over the rest of the field, a race victory isn’t totally out of the question tomorrow.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after qualifying, Wolff quipped that Red Bull did it intentionally to spice up the show.

“Maybe they’ve done it on purpose to win all the way from the back,” Wolff joked.

Karun Chandhok replied: “A deal from Stefano [Domenicali, CEO of F1] to make a good show maybe?”

Wolff added: “Exactly.”

In terms of Mercedes’ qualifying display, it was mixed fortunes with George Russell qualifying fourth, while Lewis Hamilton only managed eighth.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

Assessing their performance, Wolff added: “I think it’s where we expected to be. We know we have the deficits that we have and I think we’re within the ballpark - two-tenths up, two-tenths down, whether it’s to be just third or sixth, it doesn’t matter, we need to do the big steps forward in the races to come.”

Hamilton struggled for pace and Wolff admitted Mercedes need to look into the “differences in setup”

“We need to find out. It looked a bit sticky in sector one,” he explained “The time never came together and we need to see what differences in setup we had.”

Even though Mercedes are struggling relative to the heights of 2014 to 2020, Russell was pleased with his own performance in Jeddah.

"I would have taken that," Russell told Sky. "Really happy, really fun driving around this track.

"The car felt good, obviously we know we are lacking a bit of overall downforce but this is more than we could have hoped for given all the circumstances and ultimately, that is all we can do when we are at the track, so really pleased with that."

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