Mercedes chief Toto Wolff detailed a private message he could not believe after Lewis Hamilton engineered a stunning fightback during Saturday’s qualifying sprint in Sao Paulo. The Brit was handed a disqualification for a rear-wing violation after comfortably taking pole during Friday’s qualifying session, which saw him sent to the back of the grid on Saturday.
Incredibly, Hamilton fought his way up to fifth place in just a 24-lap sprint after starting dead last.
Capitalising on superb straight-line speed, the seven-time world champion overtook at a rate of almost one car per lap, while Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas fought it out for the top two spots.
Despite working his way up to fifth, Hamilton will start 10th for Sunday’s race due to a five-place grid penalty for changing power units.
Meanwhile, Bottas successfully held off the challenge of Verstappen, ensuring the Dutchman has not had it all his own way as he eyes a great chance to extend his championship lead.
Amid a weekend packed with controversy, Wolff relayed the moment he found out Hamilton’s rear-wing troubles had resulted in disqualification.
“They [the FIA] said there was nothing that happened with intent from our side,” he told Sky Sports.
“Then we were reading ‘disqualified’ which, honestly, I couldn’t believe. I thought [sporting director] Ron Meadows was joking when I saw the WhatsApp.
“Strange things happen but you have to take it on the chin and that last 60 minutes of motor racing from Valtteri and Lewis brought all the enjoyment back with the frustrations that happened before.”
After a fast and furious Saturday sprint, Wolff made his feelings clear to Hamilton over the team radio after the Brit’s superb fightback.
“Brilliant job,” he exclaimed, “F*** them all.”
Indeed, title rival Verstappen did not get off scot-free either after he controversially appeared to reach out and touch Hamilton’s rear-wing after Friday’s qualifying session.
The Mercedes man finished Q3 almost half a second quicker than the Dutchman, prompting suspicion from the Red Bull camp which eventually led to a £42,500 fine slapped on Verstappen.
Touching another driver’s car, or indeed ‘tampering’ as some had accused him of, is in violation of regulations when done inside the Parc Ferme.
Thankfully for Red Bull, his punishment did not extend onto the race itself like Hamilton’s did, and Verstappen explained his actions after the sprint.
“We have our suspicions that something is going on there. In the beginning of the year we all had to change our rear wings with the pillar back off,” he told Sky Sports.
“I think there is still something going on with the main plane what is opening up and giving them more top speed.”