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Wolff: Hamilton still has ‘every chance’ of title

09 Oct 2016

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff has refused to write off Lewis Hamilton’s title chances, despite the reigning world champion falling further behind team mate Nico Rosberg in the standings following Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Emirates Japanese Grand Prix.

Hamilton made a poor getaway from second on the grid, dropping to eighth on lap one before recovering to finish third behind the victorious Rosberg, who now has a 33-point advantage with just four races remaining.

“He still has every chance to win the championship and he will recover in two weeks (in Austin),” said Wolff. “One DNF and the other guy winning is 25 points lost and the championship is open again. Bernie (Ecclestone) would want that!”

Hamilton arrived at Suzuka on the back foot, having lost an almost certain victory just days earlier at Sepang due to a rare Mercedes engine failure. He then found himself embroiled in press controversy, after his use of social media during Thursday’s FIA press conference and his subsequent decision not to answer questions at a Mercedes press event.

Asked if he thought off-track distractions had affected Hamilton, Wolff said: “No, I think you can't, because he had a great race in Malaysia and we let him down. I saw him in between and he was in good spirits. Over the last three seasons it has been very even [between our drivers] with reliability problems - I just want to see a clean run to the end.”

Wolff also praised Rosberg’s Suzuka performance, after the German clinched his first victory at the famous venue, suggesting that either Mercedes driver would now make a worthy champion - and paid tribute to the entire team on the day that saw the German marque secure a third successive constructors’ crown.

“We are almost 1500 people, and they’ve been almost faultless in these three years - it’s just great to work with them,” said Wolff. “The drivers are great - the best in the world - and they also push each other to new levels. If one has a bad day they are pushed up by the other one as they set the benchmark. If I had Niki's (Lauda’s) hat, I would take it off to them!

“We have seen these [kind of] weekends with both drivers. Here Nico was in a class of his own. In the past we have had these waves and now it seems to change each race weekend. Remember Singapore - when the pressure came up at the end of the race he was without mistakes, and if you want to be world champion you have to have as few mistakes as possible.”

Wolff’s comments aside, Rosberg is now very much favourite to take his first drivers’ title. Even if Hamilton wins the last four Grands Prix of the year, he needs just three second places and a third to secure the crown.