Toto Wolff reveals ‘super awkward’ element of Lewis Hamilton contract talks

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes team principal Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage, hand gesture. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage, hand gesture. Saudi Arabia March 2023

When a relationship is as tight-knit as the one between Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton, it does mean that talking contracts can feel rather awkward.

Both Wolff and Hamilton were synonymous with the record-breaking streak of dominance which the Mercedes team went on from 2014-2021.

In that time, with Wolff at the helm as team principal and one-third owner, and Hamilton one-half of the driver pairings, Mercedes won eight Constructors’ titles in a row, while Hamilton claimed six Drivers’ titles in that time to become a seven-time World Champion.

The success is not quite flowing at Mercedes now like it once was, but Hamilton has made it clear that he does not plan on the F1 2023 campaign being his last with Mercedes, and so for that goal to be realised, it means he and Wolff must once more agree terms on a new contract.

And this is something of a cringe moment for Wolff, who explained how discussing the financial side of the deal is especially awkward.

Luckily, they have the presence of Hamilton’s manager Penni Thow who serves to keep the pair “in check”.

“It’s super awkward,” Wolff told ESPN. “Every three years we know that we have this moment. And it’s like negotiating financial terms with your best friend, with a close friend.

“How do you tackle that? Normally you don’t have such a situation.

“I want the best for him, but in that role I need the best for the team. That can be the only time in our 10 or 11 years when we are together and our objectives diverge.

“At the end of the day, talking about money with your friend is difficult. Penni helps. Penni has been keeping us in check and we have found a good modus operandi with her about how we talk. We avoid talking to each other about money but we both talk to Penni.” recommends

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Hamilton concurred with his friend and team boss Wolff on the awkward experience of talking numbers, also adding that at no stage in his career has he decided to play the political game by using a rival team to force up what his current one is offering.

In recent times rumours have returned linking Hamilton with Ferrari as confirmation of a Mercedes contract extension remains absent.

“There is no panic [over the contract],” Hamilton confirmed. “We will get to it, neither of us feel pressure, we are always honest.

“So, if Toto was talking to someone he would tell me and vice-a-versa. I’ve never ever in my whole time gone and spoken behind a team’s back to someone else to see if I can get them to raise the bar so that he has to raise his bar – I’ve never played that game, and he hasn’t either.

“So, we have always been straight shooters. But I think ultimately having such a close relationship makes it hard sometimes having hard business discussions, because emotion is involved and we have to be very careful to step out of the circle, put the relationship aside and focus on business and what’s best for us both business wise.

“But we have managed to find that balance really well over the years.”

Mercedes are hoping that the heavily-modified W14 challenger which they will unveil at Imola, host of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, will go a long way to sending them down a route which will ultimately lead them back to title challenges in the coming years.