Mercedes and Red Bull, along with their drivers, are locked into a tense battle for the title.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has revealed why Max Verstappen left him frustrated in Qatar after another tense battle in the race for the title. It was Lewis Hamilton who eventually came out victorious, closing the gap on his Red Bull rival ahead of the final two races of the season.
It was a markedly less dramatic weekend of racing at the Losail International Circuit than what occurred in Brazil, with Hamilton’s victory never looking in doubt after a clean getaway.
Verstappen and Red Bull simply could not keep up with the pace on a quick circuit, and Mercedes covered the undercut effectively to make sure of the win.
After Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas was forced to retire with a puncture, however, the Finn was left unable to challenge for Verstappen’s fastest lap.
Hamilton saw the chequered flag first to claim victory, the most important matter for the whole team on the day, but the mood was dampened somewhat as the Dutchman’s second-place was supplemented by an extra point.
Despite closing the gap on Verstappen to just eight points, Wolff was left frustrated, by his own admission, at Verstappen’s accomplishment.
“The initial feeling is bittersweet, the two World Championships are very important right now,” he told Sky Sports.
“Lewis was great, but that point they have achieved is somewhat frustrating, but it is great that we won the race.
“The good thing is that the car was fast and it seems that we are in a good position.
“Lewis had control of the race from start to finish and that is a good indication for what is to come in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.”
Wolff’s frustration is understandable given the title race has been separated by fine margins all year, and the final result is likely to follow suit.
After falling behind, Hamilton has made up ground over the past two races with tensions between the Red Bull and Mercedes camps reaching a crescendo in Brazil.
Wolff’s frustrations in Qatar were merely a continuation of his emotional antics in Sao Paulo, when he was seen and heard pointing angrily down the camera and swearing triumphantly over the team radio after being knocked back by penalties.
The stakes are certainly high on both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ fronts, with Mercedes having won every championship since 2014.
Although just eight points separate Hamilton and Verstappen, a number of possibilities could see the Dutchman seal the crown next time out in Saudi Arabia – the penultimate circuit.
If the Brit fails to score, which may be due to something as simple as a puncture, Verstappen would only need to finish second to clinch the title.
Furthermore, if Verstappen adds to his tally of nine wins this season with a tenth in Saudi Arabia, plus a fastest lap point, Hamilton would have to finish fifth or better to maintain any hope of a record-breaking eighth crown going into the final race.