Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says he had no problem with Max Verstappen’s hard racing in the Japanese Grand Prix, but thinks it is important drivers know what they are and are not allowed to do.

Verstappen pulled a tough defensive move on Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the Suzuka race during their fight for second, moving to the inside under braking for the final chicane.

The late change of direction prompted Hamilton to switch to the outside and he ran down the escape road as a result – the Briton complaining over the radio that Verstappen had moved under braking.

Although Mercedes briefly lodged a protest against what Verstappen did – something Hamilton was initially unaware of – it was dropped when it became clear that a decision could not be taken until the United States GP.

Speaking before the protest was lodged, Wolff said that he did not have too much of a problem with the way that Verstappen had driven.

“I’m biased obviously, and you will be surprised by my response,” said Wolff.

“But I love hard racing and he’s refreshing. He defends very hard. The rulebook says something else.

“The rulebook says you can’t move under braking, but it hasn’t been penalised up to now. We just need to know what is permitted or not. From my perspective hard racing is okay.”

Verstappen was spoken to by F1 race director Charlie Whiting and the race stewards on Sunday night, as it was made clear to him that his behaviour was being observed.

Verstappen’s boss Christian Horner also said he had no problem with what the Dutchman did.

“The lead car is always obviously going to go for the inside line there,” explained Horner. “I thought it was firm but fair, I didn’t see any issue with it.

“I thought it was good racing between the two drivers and Lewis didn’t seem to have any problem after the race and said well done to him.”


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