Toto Wolff wary F1 title battle will be decided by a crash

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes this year's championship battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton could still be decided by an on-track collision at the final race.

Formula One's history is littered with titles that have been decided by crashes, most famously between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in 1989 and 1990 but also in 1994 when Michael Schumacher won his first title against Damon Hill and again in 1997 when Jacques Villeneuve beat Schumacher.

With 12 points separating Verstappen and Hamilton and five races remaining, it's possible this year's championship battle will go down to the final race in Abu Dhabi.

The title rivals have collided twice already this year at the British and Italian Grands Prix, and Wolff would not be surprised if a third crash decides the title.

"If it was to come to the scenario of the last race in Abu Dhabi and they were to be racing each other for the title, whoever is in front [on points] is absolutely going to try to do the same as in the Senna-Prost years," Wolff told the Daily Mail.

"What happened in Monza? Verstappen took Lewis out because he was about to overtake and he was quicker. And that is totally understandable.

"If you are racing for the championship and you see it fading away because the other guy is overtaking you, what tool have you got other than the one that makes sure he can't overtake? We've seen it with Schumacher and Villeneuve, we saw it with Senna and Prost twice.

"I would never give the instruction to crash into anyone else but if they go to that last race and whoever is in front wins the championship, they will be racing each other, hard.

"And I don't think you can control it, Hamilton and Verstappen, I don't think you want to control it because they are the gladiators in their machines. That is what makes this sport so interesting, because it is ingrained in our nature that we don't like confrontation and then one is intrigued to see how that relationship unfolds.

"If they crash are they going to confront each other? What are they going to say? Will they look in each others' eyes? We would not interfere. The relationship is sorted out between the individuals."

However, in an interview with ESPN following the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton said he would rather lose the title to Verstappen than win it by forcing a collision at the final race.

"There's never ever a question about that. I would never want to win in that way," he said.

"If that means you don't win at all, at least you have your dignity. I wouldn't want to win any other way; you always want to win the right way."