Toto Wolff knows pit walls are drivers’ ‘vomit bags’ after Lewis Hamilton outburst

Henry Valantine
Mercedes CEO Toto Wolff. Zandvoort September 2022.

Toto Wolff wears a jumper around his neck in the paddock. Zandvoort September 2022.

After Lewis Hamilton made his feelings around his strategy known in no uncertain terms on team radio, Toto Wolff knows teams are the void through which anger is voiced and it is part of the game.

Hamilton had been in the box seat to take victory in the Dutch Grand Prix but Max Verstappen and George Russell behind him stopping for soft tyres under Safety Car conditions left him exposed on older, harder tyres once the race restarted.

He was swiftly overtaken by both Verstappen and Russell, before Charles Leclerc compounded his misery and ended with Hamilton finishing off the podium in a race he would have been favourite to win.

“I can’t believe you guys ****** me,” Hamilton said frankly of his late strategy over team radio. “Can’t tell you how p***** I am.”

Hamilton’s words are not uncommon among drivers and teams throughout the field though, according to the Mercedes team boss, and he knows having angry drivers in his ear is a part of the cut and thrust of Formula 1.

“You get emotional, I do too in the race,” Wolff told reporters, quoted by Motorsport.com. “And when you’re a driver in the car, it just comes out of you. You can’t even stop it.

“We are the trash bin, the vomit bag in the airplane, and we are taking all that because we need to. This is how it has always been in a relationship between frustrated driver and the pit wall.”

The seven-time former World Champion admitted he had hit an emotional “breaking point” in the moment as he was left as a sitting duck at the restart, and Wolff added it was simply a case of a risky strategy coming back to bite Hamilton later on.

“We have sat together and we discussed the race strategy,” he said. “It was something that this morning we decided to take a risk.

“It really backfired for him. I think overall the circumstances, I think having Max behind him and things like that, that was totally unpleasant. But there are more positives to take. And this is what we have also chatted about – that the car is faster.”

Did Lewis Hamilton need to apologise to Toto Wolff and Mercedes?

Hamilton’s anger was justified in the context of the race, but he ultimately would have likely lost track position if he had opted to pit behind the Safety Car.

Wolff’s words surrounding the strategy itself make sense because of the ramifications for both drivers, knowing at least one would be irked by a decision at any one time – as shown by Russell taking his strategy into his own hands by requesting an extra stop for soft tyres, which ultimately helped him to a P2 finish.

“It’s so tremendously difficult to really make the right judgement call and especially if you have two drivers that are competing against each other also there,” said Wolff.

“We have had 10 years of this – one will be upset and the other will be happy. And that’s the swings we need to, in a way, balance out and just acknowledge the frustration on one side is always big.”

It was noble of Hamilton to hold his hands up and apologise for what he said, but it is hard to argue he should have held his feelings in when a race victory was on the cards for him for the first time this season.