Toto Wolff has revealed a divorce analogy he gave Lewis Hamilton when the pair hadn’t spoken after Hamilton’s title defeat to Nico Rosberg.
Wolff and Hamilton have worked together for over a decade now, with the former McLaren driver jumping ship to Mercedes in 2013 to coincide with Wolff’s takeover of the team.
While the partnership has resulted in astonishing success as Hamilton has clinched six drivers’ titles in the years since, Wolff revealed it hasn’t always been plain sailing between them as he once used a divorce analogy during a particularly tough time.
Toto Wolff: There are never thoughts of divorcing
During 2016, the title fight between Hamilton – who won the 2014 and ’15 titles – became all-out warfare between himself and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg as the German driver sought revenge for his defeats to Hamilton in the preceding years.
It led to huge tension at Mercedes as Wolff and Mercedes remained impartial between their warring drivers, and the team boss revealed it had taken some time for Hamilton to re-engage with him after Rosberg had come out on top – only to promptly retire from the sport.
“Lewis has become a friend,” Wolff told the BBC’s Desert Island Discs.
“And over the years we’ve gone through difficult spells and very good moments. We celebrated many championships and we had discussions among ourselves which were not always easy.”
Wolff called upon his own life experience of marriage – he is married to former racing driver Susie Wolff – and used an analogy to thaw the ice between himself and Hamilton.
“A key moment was at the end of 2016 when we didn’t speak to each other for a while,” he said.
“So I invited him to come to my kitchen in Oxford and sit down and have a chat.
“The analogy I gave to him is that also I have arguments with [my wife] Susie.
“Even if we shout at each other, even if we have this argument, there’s never thought of divorcing, and that’s why I said to him, ‘I don’t want to divorce you and neither do you. Because I want the best racing driver in our cars and you want to have the best cars.’”
“So we came to the conclusion that we can have conflict, we can create an atmosphere where we’re able to be brutally honest with each other, and sometimes we agree to disagree, but we move on.”
What’s the latest on Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract?
But, personal friendships aside, Wolff and Hamilton are currently locked in contract negotiations for 2024 and beyond as the British driver’s deal comes to an end at the conclusion of 2023.
Despite indicating a willingness to continue working together, as well as Hamilton’s “Mercedes for life” comments made late last year, a new deal is yet to be confirmed – months after the supposedly straightforward negotiations began.
Wolff was asked about the latest on the contract talks during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, where he said the deal is with the lawyers for sorting out the nitty-gritty details.
“No, we’re not talking about an ambassadorial role post his retirement, nor is that part of the contract negotiations,” he told media, including PlanetF1.com, in response to a question about a rumoured ambassadorial position holding up the deal.
“I think he has many years to go as a driver within this team and, therefore, it’s only about cleaning things up in the contract.
“I know it looks a little bit like ‘Why is this not being done and dusted?’
“But it’s simply down to trivial things that just need to be cleaned up in contracts and we need the time.”