Toto Wolff reveals past Mercedes situation which broke Lewis Hamilton’s ‘trust’

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton pointing next to Toto Wolff. Paul Ricard July 2022.

Lewis Hamilton pointing at a screen next to Toto Wolff in the Mercedes garage. Paul Ricard July 2022.

The most successful partnership in Formula 1 history with 82 wins together, Toto Wolff has revealed there was a moment back in 2016 when Lewis Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes suffered a huge blow.

That season Hamilton was up against his team-mate Nico Rosberg for the World title, a fight that saw the two fall out with another one to the point that they weren’t speaking come the end of the season.

The campaign began with a run of four wins for Rosberg, Hamilton’s chances blighted by early-season reliability woes.

Wracking up five separate problems from China to Malaysia, Hamilton’s final engine failure of the season gifted Rosberg a 23-point lead in the Drivers’ standings.

“My questions are to Mercedes – we have lost so many engines,” Hamilton told the BBC after the Sepang race. “There are eight drivers and mine are the only ones who has failed.

“Someone has to give me some answers and it is not acceptable. Something or someone doesn’t want me to win this year.

“It’s just odd. There’s been like 43 engines from Mercedes and only mine have gone.”

Despite going onto win four of the final five races of the season, Hamilton lost the World title to Rosberg by five points.

His reliability troubles that season were almost a breaking point in his relationship with Mercedes and his team boss, Wolff.

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“Trust is a bit of a topic for him and me,” Wolff said in a recent interview with ESPN, “and you need to earn trust, test it, and only then can you trust and we built it up over the years.

“We had some tough moments, like in 2016, but we tackled it right away.

“It’s like [what] I have with Susie [Toto’s wife], if I have an issue you pick up the phone immediately and speak. Everything is being discussed and you clear the air, or you agree to disagree.

“And with him since then we have been super strong.”

Hamilton bounced back to put in a run of four championship titles from 2017 to 2020, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Drivers’ titles.

It’s fair to say 2016’s mistrust is firmly in the past with the 38-year-old speaking about his “open and honest” relationship with Wolff.

“Within business and within industries,” he continued, “it is very difficult to be open with people, because it always seems like there is someone ready to stab you in the back.

“And I think that’s the trust thing that we have that it’s never been the case. He has welcomed me into his family and welcomed my family into our team.

“When I look at other drivers who have jumped from a team after one season, I think you’ve not given anyone a chance to really show what they can do. And you can’t build a relationship in one year with such a huge organisation.

“I’ve been really fortunate to be a part of that and have that experience. So there is a lot of love here, this team has got such a winning mindset and I need to be somewhere where there is a winning mindset because that’s what I have.”

And winning is what Wolff is dreaming of, the Austrian keen to provide Hamilton with the car needed to challenge for his eighth title.

Alas, he doesn’t believe that is possible this season.

“We owe him a car,” Wolff says. “Now, that’s difficult when you see the pace of the Red Bull, but we owe him a car.

“This one is not going to win him a Drivers’ Championship this year, so we need to give it another shot.”