Saturday 20 January 2018

There's no point trying to keep Hamilton quiet - Wolff

Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Cary

Toto Wolff is just explaining how futile it is to try to put his star driver Lewis Hamilton "in a box" and control what he does or what he says, when, with the sort of exquisite timing he is demonstrating more and more on track at the moment, a video appears on Hamilton's Instagram feed of a Chihuahua vigorously humping what appears to be a Donald Trump doll.

Within an hour or so the video has disappeared, removed while Hamilton took part in yesterday's curtailed second practice session at Sepang ahead of tomorrow's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Presumably, Formula One's championship leader got cold feet about becoming mixed up in politics for a second day running, having criticised Trump's premiership on Thursday. Or else his handlers baulked at the tastefulness of the post (Hamilton denied yesterday that he had taken it down, telling reporters after practice ended that he would investigate the matter).

Either way, Mercedes denied getting involved. Wolff says they would not dream of it. Censoring Hamilton, he claims, is entirely counter-productive.

"The more you try to limit him, put him in a box, the more detrimental it will be for his performance," Wolff says. "The old mentality of 'a racing driver has to be like this or like that' is invalid for Lewis."

Hamilton is a man living very much in the moment, at the moment. And Wolff says his driving is all the better for it. Since returning from F1's summer break, Hamilton has won three straight races, turning a 14-point deficit to Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel into a 28-point advantage.

And while the 32-year-old may have been lucky with his win in Singapore last time out, with the two pace-setting Ferraris taking each other out on the first lap, Wolff says he deserved a bit of luck.

"We were unlucky a lot (this season)," he says. "Lewis's headrest coming undone in Baku cost us a sure race win, for instance."

Credit for Hamilton's form must go in large part to the two Austrians at the helm of Mercedes: Niki Lauda and Wolff. Ignoring calls to curb Hamilton's more extravagant tendencies, or otherwise censor him in any way, they have instead trusted him to learn from his own mistakes and grow. And they have reaped the rewards of that laissez-faire attitude.

"Lewis is a great personality in Formula One. The kind of deal we have is that he drives the race very fast. And we provide the framework that enables him to do so. And it's a win-win situation."

(© The Daily Telegraph, London)

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