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Imola felt like 'get out of jail card', admits Wolff

NEWS STORY
28/04/2021

Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff admits that to leave Imola still leading both championships "felt like a get out of jail card".

The history books will tell barely half the story, for, on paper, while Valtteri Bottas crashed 30 laps into the race and teammate, Lewis Hamilton finished second, thereby retaining his lead in the world championship - as did Mercedes - the reality was a somewhat different story.

When he crashed, Bottas was fighting for ninth place with George Russell, while, moments earlier, an unforced error saw Lewis Hamilton seemingly stuck in the gravel at Tosa. Though he was able to get going again, following the resultant pit stop he was a lap down on race leader Max Verstappen.

Courtesy of a remarkable fight back, and the rules allowing lapped drivers to un-lap themselves ahead of the re-start that followed the red flag period, Hamilton finished second to Verstappen, while the point for fastest race lap saw him retain his championship lead.

"Imola was a crazy race," admits Toto Wolff, in a master piece of understatement, "the kind of grand prix that lives long in the memory.

"There were so many ups and downs and there were a few moments where it felt like we wouldn't score any points at all. It was a rollercoaster of emotions, from the disappointment of Valtteri's scary accident to the thrill of Lewis' recovery drive.

"To come away leading both championships almost felt like a get out of jail free card, because our rivals didn't maximise the opportunity we gave them. And it just proves what a challenging season we have ahead of us and how quickly things can turn around in Formula One."

Looking ahead to this weekend, he adds: "Last year was our first race in Portimao. It's an exciting, undulating track and produced some great racing; we also saw in qualifying and the opening laps that getting the tyres working properly is not easy.

"It's still quite a new circuit for everyone, which should make things interesting and mean we are learning all through the weekend.

"We're expecting another close fight with Red Bull, and both McLaren and Ferrari could also be in the mix too. So, let's see how things play out."

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