Lewis Hamilton put the team championship first towards the end of the 2021 season and it shows how Toto Wolff is handling F1’s biggest ‘headache’



Mercedes teammates George Russell (left) and Lewis Hamilton.MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images

  • Toto Wolff takes on the challenge of managing teammates who are also championship rivals on the track.

  • Rival Red Bull boss Christian Horner said the situation would be a “headache” for Wolff.

  • Wolff will handle the experience, but says Lewis Hamilton is making it easier by joining the team.

As Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team principal, Toto Wolff knows he’s lucky to have a good problem, even though his biggest rival says it’s going to give him a ‘headache’ .

Mercedes have won eight consecutive F1 team championships, largely thanks to Lewis Hamilton’s seven drivers’ championships, but also because the team still has a second world-class driver.

Valtteri Bottas, 32, has been Hamilton’s sidekick for the past five years, finishing second or third in the drivers’ standings four times. However, Bottas never finished a season ahead of Hamilton and was often tasked with helping his team-mate pursue Championship glory.

Mercedes parted ways with Bottas last year, one of many storylines that is sure to dominate the new season Netflix’s hit docuseries, Formula One: Drive to Survive, which debuted Friday. To replace him, the team brought in 24-year-old George Russell, a rising star with championship aspirations of his own.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has warned that the new dynamic, which will officially begin to manifest in F1’s opening race on March 20, could become a problem for Wolff, Hamilton and the Mercedes team.

“[Hamilton is] going to have more internal competition because he has a hungry and competitive young teammate who is going to break his ankles.” Horner told the media during F1 testing. “Life isn’t going to get any easier for him, that’s for sure. George is going to be a big factor this year. He’s been incredibly fast in all junior categories. He’s one of the most outstanding talents and he takes care of its drivers. is going to give Toto a headache this year.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff (right) and Red Bull boss Christian Horner speak to the media.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff (right) and Red Bull boss Christian Horner speak to the media.Dan Istitène/Getty Images

While Horner may have intentionally needled his rival, Wolff doesn’t seem overly worried, knowing he can draw on the experience of dealing with this type of “headache” in the past.

“I learned on the job with the hardest relationship, between Nico Rosberg and Lewis, and then an easier one between Valtteri and Lewis,” Wolff told Insider when asked how he kept the tension from becoming a problem. “[This is a] very different dynamics. And again, I will learn on the job. But with more experience than I had in the past, I’m aware that this may be something where I need to put the framework in place and make sure the momentum doesn’t escalate in a way that would harm the team.”

Hamilton’s selflessness makes Wolff’s job easier

Wolff has also worked with Russell, as the Briton signed through Mercedes’ young driver scheme in 2017.

Yet key to the dynamic is Hamilton, who Wolff says has stuck to the team concept despite all his individual successes.

“I’m very aware of the conflict of interest between the two of them, between the team and the driver,” Wolff said. “But with Lewis, he’s bought into the notion of team spirit so much.”

The best example of that came at the end of the 2021 season, he said. After Hamilton finished behind Red Bull rival Max Verstappen in three consecutive races, Hamilton faced a tough climb for the Drivers’ Championship. However, Wolff noted that Hamilton has only been focused on ensuring the team win their eighth consecutive Constructors’ Trophy.

“The Drivers’ Championship is almost over three or four races before the end,” Wolff told Insider. “And [Hamilton] came up to me and said, “Let’s at least beat these guys for the tag team championship.” And he’s a driver saying that, considering he just lost the drivers’ championship.”

Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton walk together.

Former Mercedes teammates Valtteri Bottas (left) and Lewis Hamilton.Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formule 1 via Getty Images

Wolff has made it clear many times that Mercedes doesn’t have a “#1” or “#2” driver and both have the same car and the same opportunities. However, Wolff also acknowledges that at some point success is more difficult if individual riders don’t believe in the team concept.

“First of all, we have to deliver a car that can win races and championships,” said Wolff. “If that’s the case, we have to make sure it’s in the interest of the drivers, their own benefit and the team. And that would mean they both adhere to what we then need to be the necessary strategy.” “

The 2022 F1 season officially opens on Friday March 18 with practice sessions for the Gulf Air Grand Prix of Bahrain, to be held two days later.

Read the original article at Initiated

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