Toto Wolff believes ‘no one is going to catch’ Max Verstappen in title race

By Sports Desk April 07, 2024

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists Max Verstappen’s fourth consecutive title is already a foregone conclusion after the Red Bull driver cruised to victory at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen returned to winning ways in dominant fashion as the reigning drivers’ champion triumphed at Suzuka.

Having retired last time out in Australia, it was normal service resumed for the Dutchman as he led home a Red Bull one-two with Sergio Perez finishing second.

Verstappen twice led into the first corner off the line after the race was restarted following a first-lap incident which saw both Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon crash out after making contact.

From there, Verstappen controlled the pace and the result never looked in doubt, as he took the chequered flag and the fastest lap to open up a 13-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

His brake failure in Melbourne aside, Verstappen has looked in imperious form in the opening four rounds of 2024.

In what is Formula One’s longest-ever season there are still 20 races remaining, but Wolff was in no doubt that he feels Verstappen will once again be untouchable.

“No one is going to catch Max this year,” he said.

“His driving and the car are just spectacular. You can see the way he manages the tyres and basically this season now is best of the rest.

“If I was to look from a pure sporting point of view it is P1 what matters, not P2, P3 or P4 but this is the reality that we are facing at the moment.

“We’re trying to do the best out of this new reality and that is to beat our competitors whilst acknowledging that somebody is just doing a better job and setting the benchmark that we eventually need to set ourselves again.”

Wolff’s prediction of another year of Red Bull dominance was brushed aside by opposing team principal Christian Horner.

Horner and Wolff have history as rivals and have never been shy of mixing words.

“It’s very early to write off the year,” Horner said.

“There’s still 20 races to go. I’ve learned not to listen too much to what Toto says over the years.

“It was great to bounce back after the DNF in Australia, after such a great start to the season, it was important to bounce back quickly.

“I think that we’ve done that emphatically here at Suzuka this weekend. It’s a great performance.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, took the statement in a lighter mood: “Lately Toto’s been really nice! Saying a lot of nice things about me.”

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz took the last step on the podium with a strong strategy from Ferrari enough for him to leapfrog Lando Norris, with McLaren misjudging a call to pit the Briton early for his final stop.

A strong showing from Ferrari saw the sister car of Charles Leclerc come home fourth ahead of Norris, Fernando Alonso hung on to take sixth for Aston Martin with a late push from George Russell seeing him pass the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri on the closing lap to secure seventh.

Lewis Hamilton had said after qualifying that his Mercedes felt better than it had in the last three years but he struggled for genuine pace and dropped back through the field during his first stint, eventually having to settle for ninth as home favourite Yuki Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver to score points at Suzuka in 12 years by coming 10th for RB.

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  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix incident

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix We will be back says Perez following Canadian Grand Prix

    Sergio Perez has apologised following a second successive retirement at the Canada Grand Prix which left him 87 points behind Red Bull team-mate, Max Vertsappen.

    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

    In difficult conditions in Montreal, the Mexican started 16th but hopes of climbing up the pecking order soon faded after damaging his car's front wing on the opening lap when he made contact with Alpine's Pierre Gasly.

    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

    Perez recently signed a new two-year deal with Red Bull, ending speculation that the world champions will sign free agent Sainz ahead of the new season. 

  • Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell Canadian Grand Prix 'an opportunity missed', admits Russell

    George Russell secured Mercedes their first podium of the Formula One season at the Canadian Grand Prix, but felt his third-place finish was a missed opportunity.

    The British driver was on pole for the first time since the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2022 and led for the first 21 laps before being overtaken in quick succession by McLaren's Lando Norris and eventual winner, Max Verstappen. 

    In a contest that saw the drivers endure difficult conditions and in which five cars failed to finish, Russell did manage to regain first place from his compatriot on lap 27 following the safety car being deployed, but again found himself chasing Norris after running wide. 

    He dropped to fourth behind Oscar Piastri, but would reclaim a podium place with his fresh medium tyres for the closing laps, enough to get past the Australian and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who were on the hard compounds.

    Red Bull's Verstappen claimed his sixth victory of the season, extending his championship lead over Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to 56 points after a weekend to forget for the Italian team. 

    Speaking after the race, Russell believed he had the pace to catch the Dutchman before his coming together with Piastri, but enjoyed being back at the front of the pecking order despite admitting to a few mistakes. 

    "It feels like a missed opportunity, to be honest," said Russell shortly after the conclusion of the race. "We were really quick at the beginning of the race on the inters, and then obviously Lando came through really fast.

    "Then we got back on to the slicks, made a couple of mistakes out there just pushing the limits and paid the price for it.

    "Nevertheless, first podium of the year and we truly had a really fast car this weekend and to be back in the mix fighting for victory was really fun.

    "When we put the mediums on at the end we were really, really fast and I think that mistake with Oscar when I tried overtaking him and I lost the position to Lewis cost us at least P2 and maybe we could have fought with Max later in the race."

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