The most polarizing Formula 1 crash in recent memory is still reverberating across the sport, as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said this week that some of the language was “a level that we have not seen in this sport before.”
Wolff was not referring to the racist online abuse Lewis Hamilton suffered in the wake of the incident — that, sadly, has become all too common — but to comments made by Red Bull and associates, like Max Verstappen’s tweet calling Mercedes’ celebrations “unsportmanslike and disrespectful,” or Max’s father Jos Verstappen saying that Hamilton should have been disqualified, or Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner calling Hamilton’s driving “dirty,” or Helmut Marko going full Helmut Marko.
Here’s what Wolff told Motorsport.com about it:
“I think you can understand that from a competitors’ point of view, the situation was upsetting,” he told Motorsport.com. “I can understand that.
“Nevertheless, the language that was used, and making it so personal, was a level that we have not seen in this sport before.”
Pushed on the Tweet Verstappen sent on Sunday night about Hamilton being ‘unsportsmanlike’, and comments made by his father Jos, Wolff said: “I understand the bias on the crash itself and the emotions of a father, and I would probably be the same, but I would use different language.”
Wolff also seemed to recognize that all of the controversy is probably good for Formula 1.
“I think controversy and polarisation is a good narrative and good content for the sport,” he said. “Where it spills over into personal animosities, it’s where you’re overstepping the mark. But again, everybody needs to judge how he wants to do it.
The online racist abuse that accompanied all of this is the garbage modern wrinkle to what this should be, which is a good old-fashioned rivalry featuring two competitors that are willing to take some risks and talk some shit. Two competitors that are, at this point, equal in talents if not accomplishments. I think I would prefer to see Verstappen win the championship this year, because it’s not much of a rivalry if the same person wins all the time. But, make no mistake, this is what we always say we want: A championship race that is both close and unpredictable and a little personal, too.