Monday 19 March 2018

I accept 'considered' Hamilton like he is, insists Mercedes boss Wolff

Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Reuters/Adrees Latif
Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Reuters/Adrees Latif

Daniel Johnson

Toto Wolff runs an all-conquering team of 1,500 people, but it is managing the shenanigans of just one of them - his mercurial three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton - which sometimes seems to keep the Mercedes boss on his toes most.

In the past few weeks alone, Wolff has had to mop up the mess of Hamilton's incendiary remarks against the team after his engine blew in Malaysia, deal with a self-destructive battle the 31-year-old launched against the media in Japan, and bring back some semblance of mental stability after Hamilton lost even more ground to Nico Rosberg - the embodiment of self-control - in the drivers' championship.

But Wolff accepts these emotional highs and lows of Hamilton, seeing no reason to control him. Where McLaren once sought to manage Hamilton on a regime of strong discipline, Mercedes give the temperamental Englishman free rein. Bumps in the road - or possibly worse - become par for the course.

"It is a very interesting experience for me," says Wolff with a smile ahead of tomorrow's United States Grand Prix - a crucial one for Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 33 points in the championship with four races to go. "I have never been in a situation where you have a global superstar. He is an exceptional individual in every aspect."

While Hamilton's actions off the track often divide opinion, Wolff sees no reason to tighten his grip on the reigning champion.

Even after a weekend when Hamilton publicly embarrassed Mercedes, the essential affection Wolff has for him remains undiminished.

Other team principals might deem him too much hassle, but the Austrian is prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

"That is part of Lewis," he says. "He misjudged the situation in Japan.

"In his mind, he never meant to undermine anybody in the team.

"Lewis is actually a very considered person about members of the team. It was just an extreme situation of feeling unfairly treated.

"There are things I would do in the same way as him and not, but I am not judgmental. I accept him like he is. I actually think he has the heart in the right place.

"We tend to underestimate the pressure these guys are under. As long as he learns from it and moves on, and we don't repeat these things, it is not damaging. If it becomes a pattern then it is, but it isn't at the moment."

If Hamilton can be chaotic, then Rosberg is metronomic. Just as Wolff is at times blown away by Hamilton behind the wheel, then he is staggered by Rosberg's mental fortitude.

It means even Wolff often does not see the "real Nico", a mystery to most people in the paddock.

"Nico's self-discipline has been taken to new levels this year," Wolff says.

"He wouldn't even read a news article that is bad for him because it would annoy him. He just hides everything away that might distract." © Daily Telegraph, London.

US Grand Prix, Live, Sky Sports F1, tomorrow, 8.0pm

Irish Independent

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