Toto Wolff admitted that it was only a matter of time before the rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel at the front of the field would become more fierce, with what happened during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix likely to be the spark to the awaiting tinder.
Up until then, the two giants of Formula 1, with seven World Championships between them, had been full of praise for one-another, but Vettel’s move on Hamilton behind the safety car when the Scuderia Ferrari driver sideswiped the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver, was the first sign that the rivalry was about to explode.
Vettel was handed a ten-second stop and go penalty during the race and was faced with a hearing in Paris this week where he offered a full apology for what happened, and Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz, insists that his incident should now be a close chapter, but the likelihood will be that the rivalry will be less civil moving forward.
“Every great Formula One season is marked by a great rivalry,” said Wolff. “Last year it was our internal battle between Lewis and Nico [Rosberg] and this year it seems that the fight is on between Ferrari and Mercedes and Lewis and Sebastian.
“As calm as it started, it was only a matter of time until the rivalry would eventually become more fierce and controversial. That moment happened in Baku and we saw the results of that tension on track.
”We have moved passed that moment now and it is a closed chapter. The hearing on Monday was between the FIA and Sebastian and it reached the conclusion we have all seen.”