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  • Toto Wolff Admits Formula Title Is Max Verstappen'S To Lose

Toto Wolff admits Formula 1 title is Max Verstappen's to lose

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says it would take something extraordinary to prevent Red Bull's Max Verstappen from winning the Formula 1 Drivers' Championship for the third straight year.

Verstappen returned to winning ways in dominant fashion as the reigning drivers’ champion triumphed at Suzuka.

Having retired last time out in Australia, it was normal service resumed for the Dutchman as he led home a Red Bull one-two with Sergio Perez finishing second.

Verstappen twice led into the first corner off the line after the race was restarted following a first-lap incident which saw both Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon crash out after making contact.

From there, Verstappen controlled the pace and the result never looked in doubt, as he took the chequered flag and the fastest lap to open up a 13-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

His brake failure in Melbourne aside, Verstappen has looked in imperious form in the opening four rounds of 2024.

In what is Formula One’s longest-ever season there are still 20 races remaining, but Wolff was in no doubt that he feels Verstappen will once again be untouchable.

“No one is going to catch Max this year,” he said.

“His driving and the car are just spectacular. You can see the way he manages the tyres and basically this season now is best of the rest.

“If I was to look from a pure sporting point of view it is P1 what matters, not P2, P3 or P4 but this is the reality that we are facing at the moment.

“We’re trying to do the best out of this new reality and that is to beat our competitors whilst acknowledging that somebody is just doing a better job and setting the benchmark that we eventually need to set ourselves again.”

Wolff’s prediction of another year of Red Bull dominance was brushed aside by opposing team principal Christian Horner.

Horner and Wolff have history as rivals and have never been shy of mixing words.

“It’s very early to write off the year,” Horner said.

“There’s still 20 races to go. I’ve learned not to listen too much to what Toto says over the years.

“It was great to bounce back after the DNF in Australia, after such a great start to the season, it was important to bounce back quickly.

“I think that we’ve done that emphatically here at Suzuka this weekend. It’s a great performance.”

Verstappen, meanwhile, took the statement in a lighter mood: “Lately Toto’s been really nice! Saying a lot of nice things about me.”

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz took the last step on the podium with a strong strategy from Ferrari enough for him to leapfrog Lando Norris, with McLaren misjudging a call to pit the Briton early for his final stop.

A strong showing from Ferrari saw the sister car of Charles Leclerc come home fourth ahead of Norris, Fernando Alonso hung on to take sixth for Aston Martin with a late push from George Russell seeing him pass the second McLaren of Oscar Piastri on the closing lap to secure seventh.

Lewis Hamilton had said after qualifying that his Mercedes felt better than it had in the last three years but he struggled for genuine pace and dropped back through the field during his first stint, eventually having to settle for ninth as home favourite Yuki Tsunoda became the first Japanese driver to score points at Suzuka in 12 years by coming 10th for RB.

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