Former F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone believes Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is getting “a bit fed up” with Lewis Hamilton.
Ecclestone, now out of F1 leadership after selling up to Liberty Media six years ago, may not have been at a Grand Prix in two years, but the 91-year-old retains close links to many F1 figureheads after over 40 years in charge of the sport.
With Lewis Hamilton struggling to keep up with new team-mate George Russell at the start of their partnership, over the nine race weekends so far in 2022, Ecclestone reckons that Hamilton could choose to walk away from F1 earlier than his contract ends at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
“Lewis might sell his position to Toto,” Ecclestone told the Daily Mail.
“‘This is how much I am getting, I’ll step down and give me half of what I would get’ – Toto can go and do one of his magic deals, offer someone less money, and keep £20 million.
“Nobody needs to tell Toto this because he has already thought of it. Lewis would probably stop under those circumstances.
“I don’t know what he is doing dressing up in all those funny clothes. Has he a deal to it? Is it to get noticed? Maybe that’s it.”
With Russell having the measure of Hamilton at most of the Grand Prix weekends so far this year, Ecclestone suspects that Hamilton’s heart is no longer in the sport as much as it once was – despite Hamilton’s self-proclaimed hunger.
“I didn’t think [Russell] was that good but he has done an excellent job,” he commented.
“I’m surprised. Or is it a case of Lewis doing a bad job? A bit of both.”
Referring to Wolff’s regular apologies over team radio for the lack of competitiveness of the W13, including branding the machine a “s**tbox”, Ecclestone said he believes Hamilton to be more blasé about the situation than when he was younger.
“Toto is getting a bit fed up with Lewis. I don’t think he’s trying, do you?” he questioned.
“Let’s put it another way, Lewis doesn’t seem bothered about losing.
“It’s not like him. He has a competitive nature but he’s taking losing a bit easy for my liking.
“I don’t think he is actively helping George. I don’t think he’s doing anything. I don’t think he cares too much. He’s not prepared to put the effort into winning that he did.”
With Hamilton being a particularly vocal driver about the porpoising issues seen under the new ground effect regulations, as Mercedes have been one of the teams most affected, Ecclestone cast doubts on whether the seven-time World Champion has been struggling with back pain and physical problems quite as much as he has let on in the media.
“All b*******,” Ecclestone bluntly said.
“George is taller and, if it was going to happen to anyone, it would have happened to him.
“There was a bit of Nigel Mansell about it. At least with Nigel, he would get out of the car and rub his left leg as if he had broken it. Next moment, it would be his right leg.”