F1 2020: Wolff on Hamilton penalties - Things go against him harshly sometimes

By Sports Desk September 27, 2020

Toto Wolff was sympathetic to Lewis Hamilton's frustrations after the Mercedes driver questioned the penalties handed to him during the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton was leading in Sochi before race officials announced a pair of five-second penalties for carrying out practice starts outside of the designated area before the race had begun.

The reigning world champion ended up finishing third but questioned the ruling made by stewards, stating: "They're trying to stop me, aren't they".

Mercedes did still secure victory in the race through Valtteri Bottas - meaning it's seven from seven for the team in Russia - but Wolff acknowledged it had been a difficult day for Hamilton, with the ruling effectively costing him a shot at glory.

It was a second setback in three races for the Briton, who appeared on course to win the Italian Grand Prix in Monza before being penalised for entering the pits when they were closed.

"I think Lewis has faced a lot of adversity in his life, and to all of us the penalty seems a little harsh," Mercedes boss Wolff said in an interview with Sky Sports F1.

"I think things go against him harshly sometimes. I guess if you're the most successful driver, you have to take that sometimes. 

"First of all, like we've always done in the past, we win and lose together. We've never pointed the finger on a person or group, we've tried to analyse what we can do better, how we can improve. 

"Clearly, we've had two incidents now – Monza and here – where we could have probably have had a better judgement, all of us together, and this is something that is going to make us better in the long term. 

"Every driver that hasn't extracted the maximum points in a race is going to be unhappy. You have to respect the DNA of racing drivers, but as a team we need to be happy with the result.

"We've increased our advantage in the constructors' championship and I'm very happy for Valtteri, but I can understand Lewis' feelings too."

Hamilton's lead in the title race is now 44 points, while the penalties prevented him from equalling Michael Schumacher's all-time record of 91 race wins.

On the subject of the illegal practice starts, Wolff explained how there is "room for interpretation" within the rules.

"The stewards said it's not the place where you would do a race start and I agree with that," Wolff said. "But in the director's notes, you can make practice starts after the lights on the right-hand side. And that's what he did.

"So there is room for interpretation and we clearly have to analyse why we made the mistake altogether and just take this one on the chin even though with the stewards, we agree to disagree."

Related items

  • Verstappen: I'll have to race until I'm 40 to catch record-breaker Hamilton! Verstappen: I'll have to race until I'm 40 to catch record-breaker Hamilton!

    Max Verstappen backed Lewis Hamilton to win "well over 100" Formula One grands prix, joking it would force him to race into his 40s to compete.

    Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher's F1 record with his 92nd victory at Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix.

    The Mercedes man started on pole but had to recover from a tricky spell to hold off team-mate Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull's Verstappen for his landmark triumph.

    Verstappen was full of praise for Hamilton, the 2020 drivers' championship leader, after the race and does not see his dominance ending any time soon.

    "We were just talking about it," the 23-year-old said, appearing alongside Hamilton at a news conference. "Lewis says he keeps pushing because he wants to set it very high. I have to work hard to try to get there.

    "It's amazing. What can you say? It's just incredible, an incredible achievement. Ninety-two victories and I don't think it stops there. It will go well over 100.

    "He's pushing me to go until I'm 40 years old or something. It's a good motivation as well.

    "No, anyway, it's incredible. It looks like of course he's also going for his seven world titles [another Schumacher record], which is very impressive.

    "Everybody knows he's very quick but what has also been a very strong point is that he's also very consistent and very rarely makes a mistake.

    "That's why I think also he got to this number so quick. It's just very impressive."

  • Hamilton's winning record in numbers - and the Schumacher benchmarks still to be beaten Hamilton's winning record in numbers - and the Schumacher benchmarks still to be beaten

    Lewis Hamilton's 92nd race win at Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix saw him surpass Michael Schumacher for the most in Formula One history. 

    The Mercedes man, who equalled Schumacher's haul of 91 a fortnight earlier in Germany, started from pole but had to recover from a tough start to beat team-mate Valtteri Bottas. 

    Hamilton is now top of the pile, yet both he and Schumacher stand well clear of the rest in F1. 

    Sebastian Vettel is third in the standings with 53 wins, just ahead of Alain Prost's 51. Ayrton Senna had 41. 

    With the help of Opta, we take a look at more numbers behind Hamilton's success and his pursuit of Schumacher...


    HOW HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENTS BREAK DOWN

    The 35-year-old's record haul of victories have come from 262 grands prix at a win rate of 35.1 per cent. 

    Of his 92 successes, 80 have come from the front row of the grid (87 per cent) and 57 from pole (62 per cent). 

    With seven wins after qualifying in third, two from fourth and one each from fifth and sixth, only one Hamilton victory has come with the Briton starting from outside the top six – the 2018 German Grand Prix, he claimed a remarkable triumph after beginning the race way down in 14th. 

    Meanwhile, this latest win marked a 28th different circuit at which he has come out on top - another record - and arrives amid a dominant hybrid era. 

    Hamilton had at least nine wins in every season between 2014 and 2019 and, with eight so far, is on course to reach that mark again this year. No other driver has achieved this feat in six different seasons. 


    WHAT IS LEFT FOR LEWIS TO LOOK FOR?

    The most notable Schumacher record still on the table is his tally of seven drivers' championships, an achievement Hamilton will surely match this year. 

    But the German great also still leads the way in terms of various other statistics. 

    Hamilton spoke this week of a desire to remain at Mercedes next year and that should allow him to bring other benchmarks into view. 

    A victory in a 15th consecutive season in 2021 would tie Schumacher's historic run from 1992 to 2006. Hamilton's first (at Canada in 2007) came 255 races ago, with a longer stretch between successes enjoyed only by Kimi Raikkonen (294 between his first win in Malaysia in 2003 and his most recent in the United States in 2018). 

    Regardless of any extension to his stay with the Silver Arrows, Hamilton will likely add to his tally of 71 triumphs for the German outfit – only Schumacher has more successes with any one team (72 with Ferrari). 

    Another trip to Hungary could bring Hamilton's ninth victory there. No driver has ever reached nine wins at a single grand prix, with Schumacher having also registered eight in France.  

  • Hamilton's 'surreal' record hailed by Wolff as Mercedes boss jokes about new contract Hamilton's 'surreal' record hailed by Wolff as Mercedes boss jokes about new contract

    Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton's "surreal" record-breaking 92nd Formula One victory and joked it may now be too costly to tie him down to a new Mercedes contract.

    The six-time world champion moved beyond Michael Schumacher's tally of wins with another masterful drive in Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix at Portimao.

    Hamilton crossed the line 25 seconds ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who he now leads by a mammoth 77 points, for his eighth triumph in 12 races this season to create more history in a remarkable career.

    Mercedes team principal Wolff told Sky Sports: "Who would have have thought when we started this project in 2013... it's almost a surreal amount [of wins],

    "It's his absolute passion and energy and everything he puts into the sport - and the talent and the ability. He's just standing out.

    "This season he has ramped it up. It's a lot of learning, understanding the tyres and after the first couple of laps he was just sitting comfortably - then he just ramps it up even more."

    Hamilton is into the final year of his Mercedes contract and has held off from holding formal talks over a new deal.

    As the 35-year-old closes in on a record-equalling seventh title, Wolff admitted it will now likely take an even bigger sum to keep him in place.

    "It's huge! We have to sell plenty of inventory," he said while laughing. "We'll have to sell the lease back of the buildings, just to come up with the money."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.