In the wake of the Hamilton’s defeat to Max Verstappen in Abu Dhabi, the result of the FIA’s safety car restart call which allowed Verstappen to make a final lap pass in their winner-takes-all showdown for the drivers’ championship, the Mercedes driver and his boss declined to take part in the annual prize-giving event.
Hamilton’s absence, as runner up in the title chase, is a breach of F1’s sporting regulations which could lead to a potential sanction from the governing body.
But while Mercedes’ ongoing frustration about the Abu Dhabi controversy has been the major talking point ahead of the Gala, Todt insisted he did not want the event ruined by the negative situation.
Instead, he reckoned that the focus should be on celebrating Verstappen’s title success, the Dutchman collecting his maiden F1 drivers’ championship trophy after Mercedes elected to withdraw its appeal into the Abu Dhabi race outcome.
Asked for his feelings about the absence of Hamilton and Wolff, Todt said: “I think tonight we should celebrate, rather than trying to get into any kind of controversy. There is no point. What would it give?
“I think, in a way, I feel sorry, because Mercedes should have much more reward, as eight-time world champion for the manufacturers is unique.
“But this young guy [Verstappen] has made an outstanding job, and that’s what we should focus on, rather than saying ‘Are we going to punish [Hamilton] because he’s not coming?’”
Todt added that he would have liked to acknowledge another great season for Hamilton, in a year when he felt Mercedes was the better squad.
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner shakes hands with second placed Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Photo by: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Describing Hamilton as “an outstanding champion”, Todt said he would be missed at the event.
“He has been an amazing combination. Probably [the] best car, and best team and he never does a mistake,” he said.
“This time simply [Max] won 10 grands prix and we should find that remarkable.”
Todt leaves his role as FIA president on Friday, but before his departure he has set up a probe to look into the events of the Abu Dhabi safety car restart – and see what rule changes can be made in the future to ensure there is no repeat.
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“Are we perfect? We’re not perfect,” he said.
“And incidentally, that’s why I’ve suggested to have a full review to see what needs to be improved, in light of what has happened. But not only for this race, what has happened over the year.
“Should we refuse if we can improve? We should not. We need to be perfectionists, and, in a way, F1 is the result of perfection.
“You know, a great driver is not enough. A great car is not enough. So all has to be combined to be successful.”
The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35M
Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images
While Todt acknowledges Verstappen was lucky with the safety car restart in Abu Dhabi, he thinks over the course of the season there were times when Verstappen lost out through no fault of his own.
“I think he gets what he deserves,” said Todt.
“He made a great season. It’s human, you know, to focus on the last lap. It is true that he was very lucky in the last lap.
“But you should see the whole season. Was he lucky in Silverstone? Was he lucky in Azerbaijan? Was he lucky in Budapest? He was not, you know.”