Toto Wolff, Lewis Hamilton

Wolff: For a driver Formula 1 is not a team sport

Toto Wolff, Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes the DNA of a Formula 1 driver is such that for them motor racing is not a team sport and he points to the feud between Lewis Hamilton and retired World Champion Nico Rosberg as proof.

In an interview with Auto Motor und Sport, with reference to the decisive 2016 season finale in Abu Dhabi where Hamilton deliberately backed Rosberg into pursuing rivals, Wolff said, “[Hamilton] had said before that he would not do such a thing. We were naive.”

“The guys are calibrated in such a way since their early karting days, conditioned to deal with their fears and self-preservation from when they are children, alone. Then [later] some Formula 1 team chief comes along and tells them that they are responsible for a global brand and more than 100,000 employees worldwide and they should be team players.”

“But for a driver Formula 1 is not a team sport,” added Wolff.

Indeed with three races run so far this season, Mercedes ‘new boy’ Valterri Bottas was on the receiving end of orders from the Silver Arrows pitwall to allow Hamilton to pass on two occasions during the Bahrain Grand Prix, which the Finn resented but accepted for the better of the team.

The non-confrontational response is exactly why Bottas was hired as Wolff explained, “We have consciously decided for a driver who does not bring any animosities into the team, but also a fast driver who can push Lewis.”

Despite the challenges of managing Hamilton, the Mercedes boss is clearly still enthralled with the triple F1 World Champion, who the team signed from McLaren in 2013. Since then the Briton has notched up 33 grand prix victories and won two world titles for the Silver Arrows.

“Today we are dealing with an inflation of superstars through the Internet and the digital media,” said Wolff. “Shooting stars, big-brother phenomena – that come and go. Everyone imagines he is a brand and needs to position himself via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Few actually bring true performance. Lewis Hamilton, however, I think is really the best racing driver of the new generation.”

“[Apart from driving] you also need a pinch of social competence. With Lewis it is always surprising what social competences he has and how he deals with people. The impressive thing about his personality is that he is constantly evolving, he absorbs things that are good for him like a sponge,” revealed Wolff.