Wolff: Lewis a friend, doesn't mean we don't argue

Wolff: Lewis is a friend, doesn’t mean we don’t argue

Wolff: Lewis a friend, doesn't mean we don't argue

Toto Wolff shed more light on the famous “Kitchen Talk” he had with Lewis Hamilton back in 2016, which ended with them being friends, after starting off at loggerheads.

Wolff and the seven-time Formula 1 World Champion were at loggerheads after the animosities of the bitter 2016 F1 campaign between Hamilton and then teammate Nico Rosberg, the latter going on to deny the Hamilton his third consecutive Title with Mercedes that year.

Mercedes wasn’t a happy squad that season, and at the time it was a “Kitchen Talk” in Wolff’s home that set things right between the boss and the driver who wasn’t happy about how the 2016 season panned out.

“We met at the Christmas party in my home in Oxfordshire that December, reluctantly,” Wolff told revealed in a recent interview with The Times.

“I said we need to decide whether we want to work together or not. ‘You want to win as a driver, I want to win as a team. Sometimes our different agendas are going to lead to conflict and we need to decide whether we can cope with that situation’.

Wolff didn’t want a divorce with Hamilton

“We were in my kitchen. I said to him, and Susie (Wolff, Toto’s wife) didn’t much like this analogy, that even though Susie and I might disagree about something, [it] would never come into my mind to divorce,” the Austrian added.

“‘And it’s the same with you Lewis,’ I said. ‘I don’t want a divorce. You’re the best driver. I want you in our car and we want to provide you with the best car’.

“We kind of went into this discussion at loggerheads and then, after four or five hours in the kitchen, we found ourselves on a totally different level. A purely business-related relationship had become a personal relationship,” Wolff added.

“He’s a friend. [It] doesn’t mean we don’t argue anymore but now, Lewis’ success is the team’s success, and the team’s success is Lewis’ success,” Wolff said of the record-breaking success Mercedes had with Hamilton at the wheel over the years following that difficult 2016.

How the boss managed to rein in Rosberg and Hamilton

Wolff then explained how he dealt with the squabbling of his drivers back then, Rosberg and Hamilton, and admitted he had them face the team when the messed up, to show them the extent of the damaged their on-track shenanigans had on the morale of their colleagues.

“I felt that they were opportunistic, putting their own objectives before the team’s objectives, that they did not respect that there were a thousand people who worked for them,” the Mercedes boss explained. “I had to show the organisation that I wouldn’t allow that behavior anymore.”

“After the race, I demanded that both drivers come out to the space where all the engineers were,” Wolff said referring to his drivers’ crash at the 2014 Belgium Grand Prix.

“I told them, ‘Look at everybody here in the room, imagine everybody back at home and their families, and realise how you are making us look’. I used some harsh words I cannot repeat.

“I saw the engineers look at the floor, the drivers look at the floor. I said, ‘The next time when you want to drive each other off the road, you think about all the faces here, and then you will think twice’.

“I told them that if it happened again, I would not hesitate to take them out of the car. I said, ‘Don’t challenge me on this – you don’t want to find out what I am capable of.’,” Wolff threatened at the time.

The “Kitchen Talk” has paid dividends since then, as Hamilton went on to win four more Drivers’ Crowns with Mercedes, as the team made a clean sweep of of all the Constructors’ Titles.

It remains to be seen how the team/driver combo fares this year under the new technical regulations, with the early signs not being so promising, but with a team like Mercedes, you never know.