Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has scoffed at the idea that there was any collusion between his team and customers Force India during the Monaco Grand Prix.
During the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago, Lewis Hamilton emerged from his pitstop behind the Force India of Esteban Ocon. Normally, this would be a disastrous event for any driver at the circuit most renowned for being nigh on impossible to overtake at. However, Hamilton cruised up on his fresh tyres behind the Force India and passed Ocon quite easily. This led to a post race furore, due to Ocon being a Mercedes junior driver, as well as driving one of Mercedes engine customer cars. With Monaco being so difficult to pass, the suggestion was that Ocon could have continued driving normally without any strong defence, and still been able to lap as quickly without coming under undue pressure from Hamilton.
The matter was enough for the FIA to launch an internal investigation into possible collusion between the two teams, which is banned under the regulations, but they have cleared the two teams of any misdeeds.
Despite several undisclosed teams claiming collusion, Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer explained that Ocon did let past Hamilton, but that any instruction coming from Mercedes was nonsensical: “We were running our own race and it wasn’t against Lewis. Alonso had pitted and was trying to undercut us and we didn’t want Esteban to lose any time with Lewis.”
Wolff, who is head of Mercedes’ motorsport division as well as team boss of Mercedes’ F1 team, rubbished any suggestion that there were instructions issued to their customer team: “I don’t really understand the fuss. Lewis was on fresh tyres and Ocon was racing other cars. If you fight you lose a lot of time, particularly around Monaco having to look in your mirrors all the time — more than 2s per lap. I think what happened was a normal situation that we’ve seen many times in the past and will in the future.”