Guenther Steiner tried and failed to slam Toto Wolff over his radio message to race control during Sunday’s Formula 1 race in Spain.
Two key storylines through the first four races of the 2021 Formula 1 season are polar opposites: the classic Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen world championship battle, and the perpetual struggle of Nikita Mazepin to keep his car pointing forward and to finish relatively close to anybody else in qualifying sessions or the races themselves.
These two storylines collided in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Cataunya, and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff wasn’t happy about it.
Verstappen, leading the race in his Red Bull, caught up to Mazepin ahead of his first pit stop, with Hamilton trailing just barely in second place.
Mazepin had just been given a penalty point on his license in the previous round (plus a useless five-second time penalty) for disobeying the blue flags multiple times when approached by the race leader, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, late in the race.
When Verstappen and Hamilton approached him in Spain, he clearly hindered their progress as well. Verstappen dove into the pits, but Hamilton stayed out. That prompted Wolff to say this to Formula 1 race director Michael Masi, a message that was aired on lap 26 of 66 around the 16-turn, 2.892-mile (4.654-kilometer) road course in Montmelo, Catalonia, Spain, marking the first time such a message had ever been shared with a live audience.
“Michael, blue flags. Michael this guy makes us lose the position.”
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner responded to Wolff’s message, and his attempt to slam the Mercedes boss ended up being somewhat comical, given the circumstances.
Here is what Steiner, had to say about Wolff’s message, according to Planet F1.
“Nikita told me. I didn’t hear the message. They just told me in the debrief that Toto said something, but I don’t know exactly why he said it because I don’t know the circumstances. I think Nikita did a good job to get out of it and maybe Toto being Toto just wanted to make sure that he showed who is in command here and that everybody should move when he is coming along. He didn’t let his guys do that work. He wanted a bit of publicity I guess.”
Yes, that is it exactly; he wanted publicity — on a kind of radio message that had never before in Formula 1 history been shared with a live audience.
Could it be that he simply didn’t want his team’s race ruined by a moving chicane with a history of blocking the race leader for absolutely no reason whatsoever?
And if not blocking, maybe spinning for the 12th time already this year and causing a wreck?
“Pay driver” has never had a better definition than a 22-year-old son of a Russian chemicals billionaire who finished in 18th place in the Formula 2 standings without a top seven finish while his teammate won the championship with four wins and 12 podium finishes in the same car.
Not exactly Niki Lauda, like some — one person in particular — would have you believe.
That one person would be Steiner, by the way.
Are we really going to pretend that Hamilton couldn’t do it himself? Implying a seven-time world champion couldn’t pass a two-time race finisher driving a tortoise of a car is one of the funniest things aside from the Sky Sports broadcast team’s reactions to any one of Mazepin’s 11 spins so far this season.
The only way he doesn’t pass him is if Mazepin collects him in another one of his signature offs. Wolff simply wanted to avoid disaster before it struck and minimize the losses Hamilton had already sustained.
Suffice it to say that there’s a reason Verstappen pit when he did; running near Mazepin presents Plan D if you’ve only worked on Plans A, B and C. That’s become common knowledge throughout the paddock.
Or maybe he just pit for the publicity.
Formula 1 is set to be back in action on Sunday, May 23 with the Monaco Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco, which is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET.