Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has compared Lewis Hamilton missing out on the Formula One world title to Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ - but denied claims the driver was “cheated” out of a record-breaking eighth championship.
Hamilton was beaten to the title by Max Verstappen in a controversial final lap shootout at the season-deciding Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Mercedes initially saw their protest of the race result dismissed by stewards before they withdrew their appeal of Verstappen’s championship.
Mercedes and Wolff were left furious after Verstappen was allowed to position himself behind Hamilton on fresh tyres following a late safety car at the Yas Marina Circuit. Wolff called the actions of race director Michael Masi “unacceptable” while Mercedes boss and Wolff’s wife Susie has also claimed that Hamilton was “robbed” of the championship.
In an interview with BILD, Wolff went on to compare Verstappen’s dramatic title win to Maradona’s infamous first goal against England at the 1986 World Cup, as well as England’s winner against Germany in the 1966 World Cup final that caused debate over whether it crossed the line.
“It is definitely on a par with the ‘Hand of God’ by Diego Maradona or the Wembley goal from 1966,” Wolff said.
“An inconsistent decision by the race director took the title away from Lewis,” he added, after rejecting that his driver had been “cheated”.
Wolff said that Mercedes decided to withdraw their appeals as they would have been “powerless” if that had gone to court with the FIA.
“We decided together that we would protest and wanted to carefully consider a possible appeal,” he said. “We decided together not to do this. The FIA would have been a defendant and a judge at the same time.
“This releases a feeling of powerlessness. Just like on Sunday in the last lap, that’s how I felt as a child. Lewis and I are still completely disillusioned. My heart and soul still cry with every pore.
“When the principles of sport are disregarded and the stopwatch is no longer worth anything, one begins to question whether all the work, blood, sweat and tears are worth it.”
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