Mercedes GP’s Toto Wolff Says: ‘It’s All or Nothing’ for the Final Race of the Season

Mercedes GP has dominated Formula 1 for the last seven years, winning every drivers’ and constructors’ championship since 2014. To say that they have owned the turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1 would be an understatement, as Mercedes GP has made itself the top team on the grid through unrivaled domination. 

In 2021, a resurgent Red Bull Racing, led by superstar driver Max Verstappen, are taking the fight to Mercedes. Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has his hands full trying to defend his crown against a ferocious rival, and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has gotten bogged down in a war of words with Red Bull’s Christian Horner.

Heading into the final race of the 2021 season, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are tied in points for the driver’s title, and Mercedes is 28 points clear of Red Bull in the constructors’ championship. While that may seem to be a healthy cushion, it is, in fact, a very tenuous lead.

A single race will decide titles, and there is no room to hold back

Championship momentum during the 2021 season has swung wildly between Mercedes GP and Red Bull Racing. There have been moments when the title appeared to be locked up by one driver only to have that switch at the following race. Mercedes appeared to be on the ropes heading into the Sao Paulo GP. But thanks to Hamilton’s epic show of force, the momentum shifted away from Red Bull and allowed the German team to regain the upper hand.

The titles will be settled on the Yas Marina Circuit at the final race in Abu Dhabi. Speaking to the press after Hamilton’s win in Saudi Arabia, as quoted by Formula1.com, Toto Wolff talks about the constructors’ championship and what Mercedes will need to do to win, “I think [in] the constructors’ championship we made a really decent step, a good one, but one must not forget that we have just equalized on points [in the drivers’ championship], so we are all cheery and that is good because you have to enjoy these moments.

“But now it is all or nothing in Abu Dhabi; whoever wins the race wins the championship, and therefore it is important to stay both feet on the ground, keep working, and hopefully bring the performance that we had [in Saudi Arabia] on to Abu Dhabi.”

Can Mercedes and Red Bull ‘play nice’ in the final race, and will Hamilton and Verstappen avoid further contact and controversy?

Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda battle for position during the F1 Grand Prix of Portugal on May 02, 2021 | Lars Baron/Getty Images

With so much at stake in Abu Dhabi, it is a given that both Mercedes and Red Bull will throw everything they can at winning the title. Both teams have said this before, but even the best-laid plans fall apart when the driver’s helmets go on, and racing gets underway. 

The race season has been defined mainly by on-track clashes, and Toto Wolff was asked if he thought Hamilton and Verstappen could race cleanly in the final round. Wolff responded by saying, “You know… my confidence, I can’t tell you, as I would hope that [Saudi Arabia] has enough repercussions that everybody’s going to learn from it and adapt for the final race in Abu Dhabi.

“I think that similar driving, if it were deemed by the stewards to be over the line, then would be also penalized by the stewards in Abu Dhabi, and that could well end in a messy situation for everybody.

“And I don’t think the championship has deserved a result that’s influenced by a collision, so I very much in that case trust the self-regulating system… the quicker car with the quicker driver should win the championship and not by taking each other off.”

Changes made to the circuit in Abu Dhabi could favor Mercedes

A general view of the track during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on December 09, 2021 | Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Yas Marini Circuit in Abu Dhabi has produced unexciting races in the past. The track’s layout, which runs along the harbor, doesn’t favor overtaking and results in parade-like races. This year, the circuit decided to take action, and changes could produce more passing and benefit the speed advantage of the Mercedes F1 car.

The most significant change worth mentioning is the removal of the turn five and six chicanes. That will keep the speed of the cars up and allow for more passing. The hairpin has also changed, opening up and moving forward on the track. And the turn 11 through 14 corners are replaced with a 180-degree sweeper.

These changes will make the circuit significantly faster, and Pirelli, who supplies tires to Formula 1, estimates that lap times could plummet by as much as 14 seconds. 

A higher-speed circuit will favor the Mercedes F1 car. Their aerodynamic design emphasizes straight-line speed with low drag, giving them an advantage on long straights and high-speed corners.

Toto Wolff is prepared to put it all on the line in Abu Dhabi, and Red Bull will not hold back either. If the racing remains clean and the drivers can avoid contact and the wrath of race control, then the season finale should be one Formula 1 fans remember for a long time. 

Related: Christian Horner Believes Red Bull is ‘Better as a Team’ Than Title Rival Mercedes GP