Formula 1
Formula 1
26 Sep
-
29 Sep
Event finished
10 Oct
-
13 Oct
Event finished
24 Oct
-
27 Oct
Event finished
01 Nov
-
03 Nov
Event finished
14 Nov
-
17 Nov
Event finished

How a kitchen meeting helped reset Hamilton/Mercedes relationship

shares
comments
How a kitchen meeting helped reset Hamilton/Mercedes relationship
By:
Apr 5, 2017, 9:04 AM

Toto Wolff says a meeting in his kitchen last winter with Lewis Hamilton delivered a breakthrough in helping reset the former world champion's relationship with Mercedes.

Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid, Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid with Peter Bonnington, Race Engineer, Mercedes AMG
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 Team and Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director
World Champion Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 shakes hands with team mate and race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1
Podium: race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, second place Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG, with Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1st Position, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG, 2nd Position, and Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG, 3rd Position, celebrate on the podium
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1st Position, signs some artwork after winning
Toto Wolff, Executive Director (Business), Mercedes AMG, in the Team Principals Press Conference

Hamilton and Wolff went through some tough times in 2016 – which included frustrations from Hamilton's side about his engine failure in Malaysia and annoyance about a move by the team to shuffle mechanics between his side of the garage and teammate Nico Rosberg's.

But just weeks after there was further controversy in Abu Dhabi over the way Hamilton had tried to back Rosberg into the pack, the British driver met with Wolff at his Oxford home for a private chat.

Hamilton took to social media after the meeting to say how 'amazing' it had been to have a chat as they ran through the fallout of the campaign.

And, speaking at length for the first time about how things are now improved between Hamilton and Mercedes, Wolff said the chats were crucial for exposing issues that had simmered away under the surface.

"When it gets intense during a season between two drivers, sometimes things remain unspoken and not discussed," Wolff told Motorsport.com in an exclusive interview.

"I think at the end of the season is a good moment, where you can put everything on the table, some of the frustrations and undiscussed topics, and to reflect on them, and to analyse them and to agree or find out what actually happened.

"There's never an ultimate truth to say somebody is 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong, and so it was very important to find the cause."

Wolff has admitted that the chat highlighted things both he and Hamilton could have done differently over recent years, but says that such moments are to be expected when a team and driver are fighting for a world championship.

"It's a learning process," he said. "You cannot, on one side, expect to have the most ambitious driver in the car that will score the result that you are trying to achieve, and on the other side expect them to be corporate robots.

"Nico and Lewis, and it's the same for Valtteri [Bottas], understand the huge effort that's being made behind them to deliver those cars and they understand the responsibility towards the brand and all these people they represent.

"But sometimes the DNA of a racing driver is going to make him look after himself. Over four years, we had these very rare moments of a situation where there wasn't an alignment on interest.

"And in hindsight there are things that we could have done better. It's important to realise and develop as a personality."

Wolff is, however, proud of the way that Mercedes handled the Rosberg/Hamilton relationship throughout, with the rivalry never having ripped the team apart.

"Somehow it was part of the set-up of the team," he said. "We had these two personalities, demanding race drivers, and it was a really good situation for the team in them pushing each other and pushing us, and us pushing them.

"It feels that, even though we had these ups and downs and controversy up to a point that it got difficult, it was still a very good time. A very successful time and an enjoyable relationship."

New dynamic

Wolff says that the arrival of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes as Rosberg's replacement has helped reset the situation at the team even further.

"It's a completely different dynamic," he said. "We've seen it already in testing and in the team briefings we have held.

"There is no baggage. There is no historic baggage between the two of them and I can see the rivalry taking place on track. Nothing else is to be expected. It's not happening in the briefing rooms and that's very good, because it is not causing us overhead."

When asked if he believed the relationship between Bottas and Hamilton would remain as strong when they start fighting each other properly on track, Wolff said: "I hope. Maybe it's naive, but I hope it can last.

"I'm under no illusion that there will be moments when it will be more difficult. A racing driver losing is not an individual that is particularly happy chappy."

Vettel rumours

Bottas is currently on a one-year deal and will need to keep impressing if he is to retain his seat for 2018.

However, despite recent stories suggesting that Mercedes was angling to lure Sebastian Vettel away from Ferrari, Wolff insists that remarks he made about the German were interpreted the wrong way by some.

"There was one quote that was blown completely out of context," he said. "What I said is that I like Sebastian as a personality. I get on with him very well. And for any team not considering Sebastian, if you were to have a vacant spot, would be silly. But there is no vacant spot to consider [at Mercedes].

"We have two drivers and we have committed to the drivers and we will give them every support that we need to give them.

"It's clear that Valtteri will need that support at the beginning coming new to a team, having the quickest Formula 1 driver of modern times as a teammate. I'm not thinking about 2018 and beyond. It's very far down my list of priorities."

Wolff said that the team was more than happy to wait to give Bottas every opportunity to show his potential before deciding if the Finn will be retained for 2018.

"I think we haven't set a time because we wait for five or six race weekends to see how it all settles down and then look at the situation. But it's so far down the line... Three months, it feels like ages."

Next article
What £116 million will get you in Formula 1: Williams F1 team announces results

Previous article

What £116 million will get you in Formula 1: Williams F1 team announces results

Next article

Tech analysis: F1's engine options past 2020

Tech analysis: F1's engine options past 2020
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Lewis Hamilton Shop Now
Teams Mercedes Shop Now
Author Jonathan Noble