‘We are fighting the car’: Wolff lauds Hamilton’s F1 skillset in tough season

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has praised Lewis Hamilton for the role he has played in driving the team forward during a difficult year. After Hamilton took second place at the French Grand Prix, Wolff noted how Hamilton was demonstrating a very different skill set to that which he had employed in taking his seven Formula One world championships.

Max Verstappen won for Red Bull at Paul Ricard but Mercedes returned their best result of the season, with Hamilton second in his 300th grand prix and his teammate George Russell in third, the team’s first double podium this season. Mercedes remain unable to match Ferrari or Red Bull for race pace but at least stayed with them at Le Castellet.

Mercedes have been working flat out to try and improve the performance of their car all season, a task Wolff believes Hamilton has been uniquely suited to adapt to with his huge experience from 16 years in the sport. “The situation is very different than when you are fighting for a title,” he said. “Then it’s 100% of concentration to fight the other guy. This is different because we are fighting the car at the moment, we are trying to motivate and energise the team and in the factory. Lewis is positive even on days that are not so good, like [qualifying] on Saturday. That attitude is great and that’s something that has really grown with him over the years.”

Hamilton delivered an exemplary drive on Sunday, albeit one in which his position was flattered as a result of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashing out, allowing Verstappen to secure a huge 63-point lead in the championship, and by Leclerc’s teammate, Carlos Sainz, starting in 19th. Hamilton was able to stay in front of Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Pérez, and maintained a consistent gap to the Dutchman. Wolff emphasised the difference his driver was making in what he once more conceded was sorely-wanting machinery.

“You have a seven-time world champion in a car that is just not good enough for a world championship at the moment,” said Wolff. “He is pushing very hard and maximising what is in the car and gave a faultless delivery.”

Russell and Hamilton are fifth and sixth in the drivers’ championship and despite their best efforts it’s clear a ninth consecutive constructors’ championship title is already beyond Mercedes. They are third, 44 points behind Ferrari and 126 points behind Red Bull. Wolff is, however, proud of his team and the character they have shown during what has been a consistently challenging season.

“The biggest asset is the culture we have in the team,” added Wolff. “It is the immune system of the team, it keeps us working with the right mindset and to persist when it is difficult. The drivers are part of our culture and mindset and they squeeze the utmost out of the car. They never let go, they just never let go.”