Toto Wolff has lauded how Lewis Hamilton handled himself in his toughest Formula 1 season to date, and compared his role within Mercedes to Michael Schumacher’s standing within the team.
Hamilton endured his first ever year without claiming a victory in Formula 1 after piloting the troublesome Mercedes W13, with team-mate George Russell taking the team’s only win of the year in Brazil, with the seven-time World Champion making it a Silver Arrows one-two on the day.
But given the early problems with the car, Hamilton opted to take experimental setups on his side of the garage to gather data, sometimes sacrificing outright speed in the process, to try and help the team take a step forward later on.
His and Russell’s work paid dividends as they eventually closed the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari towards the end of the season, but suffice to say there was little love lost between Hamilton and the W13 come season’s end, and he will hope for more from the W14 next year – with Mercedes having fired their 2023 car up for the first time before their Christmas shutdown.
Despite Hamilton having had uncompetitive machinery for the vast majority of the season, Wolff had high praise for how he looked to galvanise the team around him, in a way he has not seen from anyone else.
Discussing Hamilton’s troubles throughout the 2022 season, Wolff explained on the Beyond the Grid podcast: “Extremely tough because we have given him a tool that wasn’t capable of winning and on top of that, the drivers had a car that was unpredictable, unstable. Good at times, not good at others. Not really something you can work with and develop.
“But as a personality, how he has gone through the season is really admirable. There were times when the team felt down because of the non-performance in this way.
“He picked the people up and motivated them, and that is truly management and personality traits that I have not seen with a professional sportsman before.”
Hamilton reached the end of his 10th year with Mercedes in 2022, and Formula 1’s all-time record race winner is looking to extend his contract beyond the end of 2023 with the Siver Arrows.
With how long he has been with the team and the standing he has in the sport, Wolff thinks Hamilton’s place at Brackley and Brixworth goes beyond driving – like Formula 1’s only other seven-time champion before him.
“I would say yes,” Wolff responded when asked if he in fact sees Hamilton as a management figure at Mercedes.
“Obviously there’s his involvement in developing the car and his presence in the factory, but I think on the race weekends, he has become such a senior figure – maybe a little bit like Michael was back in the day. Or think about Tom Brady in football teams, that you become more than just the player or just the driver, but you’re emotionally part of the team, and he definitely is.
“He’s not like we called them in the past [a] contractor, drivers come, get paid and they leave for the next better occasion – but he’s been with the team now 10 years. He’s a team member.”