Toto Wolff believes the version of Lewis Hamilton racing at Mercedes now is very different to the one from earlier in his career at Brackley.
Lewis Hamilton is now one of F1’s elder statesmen, with the British driver set to turn 39 years old in January ahead of next season – assuming the seven-time World Champion continues to race in the sport.
Hamilton is without contract for 2024, although is expected to sign a contract renewal with Mercedes as both sides have indicated a willingness and desire to continue over the past several months. However, formal confirmation of this agreement is yet to be announced.
Toto Wolff: What Mercedes have now is ‘Lewis 2.0’
But the Lewis Hamilton of today isn’t quite the same one that signed up to Mercedes, then ‘only’ a single-time World Champion when he switched from McLaren to Mercedes for 2013.
It’s a move that would yield multiple championships as Mercedes came on song in 2014, with Hamilton moving to match Michael Schumacher’s unprecedented seven world titles by the time Mercedes’ dominance came to an end in 2021.
Hamilton hasn’t won a race since late 2021, although could have won last year’s Brazilian GP with a little more fortune while battling Max Verstappen – circumstances that helped teammate George Russell claim his own maiden win in the sport.
But, despite the lack of wins, Wolff is still full of praise for Hamilton, dubbing him ‘Lewis 2.0’ as Hamilton comes to terms with no longer being F1’s foremost driver.
“He’s been great,” Wolff told US publication Boardroom.
“He’s been super supportive when the team needed it, and that dynamic goes in both directions.
“When he’s not great mentally about how the car is going, we try to support him, and when you can see when the engineers didn’t know what to do next on the track on race weekend, it’s he who cheered everybody up and brought the right attitude as a driver.”
Both Hamilton and Wolff have spoken in the past about how their relationship has become developed beyond the point of colleagues, or that of a boss and his employee, with both viewing each other as friends.
“We’re both very ambitious and we trust in both our ambition and determination,” Wolff said.
“Whether it was a great run or more difficult like now, it’s a partnership that goes beyond the racing side because we are in the same boat. He always says we win and we lose together.”
Toto Wol: Lewis Hamilton’s personality and mindset changes and evolves
Wolff also explained that, despite the huge amounts of success Hamilton has had as a driver during his career, the British driver has never stopped trying to improve and develop himself – both as a driver, sportsman, and as a person.
“He’s still able to scrutinise himself every day in order to become a better person, a better racing driver, a better manager, a better entrepreneur, and a better human being,” Wolff said.
“People who take it for a fact that ‘This is who I am,’ that’s not his attitude, not his mindset. It’s difficult to actually change your personality or your mindset, values, and learnings, but he does that. He embraces that.”
Having enjoyed such an unprecedented level of success over close to a decade of racing, the regulation changes for 2022 ended Mercedes and Hamilton’s run at the top with Max Verstappen and Red Bull dominating the sport ever since.
Mercedes have been in the chasing pack, sometimes leading said pack, while at other times falling further back. Does Wolff see a return to the top any time soon?
“It’s not a disaster, but it’s still not where we aim to be,” he said.
“From a human standpoint, it’s very difficult because it’s not like you know that in six months we’re going to be competitive, or in a year’s time we’re fighting for a championship. You just need to put one foot in front of the other and try to get back to the summit, while always having this question mark, ‘When is it going to happen?’”