Toto Wolff compares Abu Dhabi last lap controversy to Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’

Toto Wolff has compared the controversy at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to Diego Maradona’s infamous 'Hand of God' goal at the 1986 World Cup.

Wolff, and Mercedes personnel, were left incensed by events at the Yas Marina, which saw Max Verstappen overtake Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to be crowned F1 champion.

However, it was a scenario that few would have seen coming in the closing stages with the British driver seemingly in complete control, only for Williams driver Nicholas Latifi to crash and prompt a safety car to head out onto the track.

Then came a bizarre string of events, which saw race director Michael Masi alter his original instructions to drivers in an attempt to speed up the safety car process and ensure there was one final lap of racing. It gifted Verstappen, who was on fresher tyres, the chance pass his rival and take the chequered flag.

Mercedes duly launched two protests over the procedure, both of which were dismissed, and despite originally serving notice of an intent to appeal confirmed on Thursday they would not be pursuing that option.

And now Wolff, 49, has likened the dubious finale to Maradona punching the ball past Peter Shilton in that World Cup quarter final 35 years ago, putting Argentina 1-0 up against England in a game they would eventually win 2-1.

“It is definitely on a par with the ‘Hand of God’ by Diego Maradona or the Wembley goal from 1986,” Wolff told German newspaper Bild.

“An inconsistent decision by the race director took the title away from Lewis.”

Indeed, Masi has been under severe public pressure since the race in Abu Dhabi, facing widespread accusations of deliberately manufacturing the outcome, with many F1 fans calling for his resignation.

The Mercedes protest was heard by members of the FIA, as would any subsequent appeal have been, and Wolff said it was that notion which persuaded the team to reluctantly drop proceedings.

“The FIA would have been both defendant and judge," he continued.

“That unleashes a sense of powerlessness, just like on Sunday in the last round. I haven’t felt like that since I was a kid.”

However, the authority have pledged to hold a full review into safety car procedures, and meet with all teams to clarify rules ahead of the 2022 season, a move which Wolff said he welcomed.

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