Toto Wolff applauds ‘straightforward’ Lewis Hamilton over Mercedes position swap

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton prepares to lower himself into the cockpit of his Mercedes W14 at the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, 2023.

Lewis Hamilton prepares to lower himself into the cockpit of his Mercedes W14 at the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, 2023.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has praised Lewis Hamilton for his “straightforward” handling of the team’s request to swap positions with team-mate George Russell in the Miami Grand Prix.

With Hamilton mounting a recovery from 13th on the grid in Florida the seven-time World Champion, running an alternative strategy, was asked by his race engineer to avoid holding up Russell.

Hamilton responded that while Russell could pass him, he would not back off himself and lose time in the process.

He then proceeded to move off the racing line at Turn 12 on Lap 32 to let his team-mate through with Hamilton eventually finishing sixth – 18 seconds adrift of fourth-placed Russell.

Mercedes endured another challenging weekend in Miami, with both drivers struggling with the W14 car at various points throughout practice and qualifying.

At a difficult time for the team, Wolff was heartened by the cordial spirit between his drivers.

“No, absolutely not,” he replied when asked if he envisaged a problem with Mercedes prioritsing Russell at that point of the race, according to Crash.net.

“George was a stop ahead.

“To see two team-mates, both on very good levels, they are both so straightforward.

“That is good at such a difficult moment.”

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Hamilton was one of just six drivers – including Max Verstappen, winner from ninth on the grid for Red Bull – to start the race on hard tyres.

With the Mercedes generally better over a race distance than a single lap, Wolff said the decision to do something different on race day was vindicated.

He added: “The car was good today.

“From P13 it’s pretty difficult if you start on the same strategy as everyone else to pass.

“Therefore we went with hards, then we saw others had thought the same.

“Considering the strategy hope that we had, that nobody would start on the hards, was diminished, he drove a great race.”

With Hamilton finishing ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who set a lap good enough for seventh on the grid prior to his crash late in Q3, Wolff argued that the quality of his drive could not be underestimated.

“He came from P13 with a car that was really not easy,” he claimed, per the German edition of Motorsport.com.

“In the end he had really good pace and even overtook a Ferrari.

“And when you come from P13 sixth that’s very good.”

Mercedes are set to introduce a major upgrade package at the next race at Imola as the eight-time Constructors’ Champions aim to get their season back on track, having admitted to pursuing the wrong car concept for 2023 after the first qualifying session of the season in Bahrain.