Toto Wolff fuelled by ‘personal anger’ to help Lewis Hamilton win eighth title

By Sports Desk November 15, 2023

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he is fuelled by a personal anger and drive to help Lewis Hamilton win the record eighth world championship he was denied in Abu Dhabi.

In an interview with the PA news agency ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster Las Vegas Grand Prix,  team principal Wolff also revealed his own succession plan at Mercedes – in which he plans to skip as many as 10 races each season – and claimed Hamilton, 38, could compete in Formula One for at least another five years.

Wolff has arrived in Sin City for the inaugural night race on the Las Vegas strip following Mercedes’ abysmal performance last time out in Brazil – one he described as the worst of his career.

Hamilton finished 63 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen, and gloomily predicted he will not be a championship contender for the next two years.

Next month will mark two years since the seven-time world champion last won a race, and that ill-fated evening in Abu Dhabi where race referee Michael Masi’s failure to imply the correct rules left him at the mercy of Verstappen. The Dutchman took the championship in the desert before quickly racking up another two titles in his all-conquering Red Bull.

“We are living in a hamster wheel where time passes so quickly that it doesn’t feel like it has been two years,” said Wolff.

“You can see how quickly the pecking order changes. We won eight constructors’ championships in a row, and it has been two years since Red Bull have been taking the trophy home. But we have to look forward, learn from the past, and the push now is to make Lewis win quickly again.

“I have a personal anger, and drive to make him win the eighth title because he should have had it.

“As a team principal, it is important to be fair and open with both drivers. But there is a big part of us that will always want to be a part of that story in undoing and overcoming 2021.”

Hamilton will start a new two-year deal with the Silver Arrows next season, worth an estimated £100million. He will be nearly 41 at the conclusion of the contract, but Wolff does not believe it will be his last with Mercedes.

“We are living from contract-to-contract, and it is important that we are doing what we think is right and what we feel is right, and at the moment I personally feel he can go longer,” added the Austrian.

And could he carry on for another five years?

“He is 39 in January, and Fernando (Alonso – 42) is still going strong,” replied Wolff. “As long as you look after yourself, you do the best preparation, physically and mentally, and develop different areas to when you are 25, then yes.

“We just need to give him a car that is quick enough. And, as a driver, I have no doubt about him. You have seen in the last races that his performance, speed and race craft are all there. But, if he doesn’t have the car underneath him, he cannot win.”

Wolff oversaw Mercedes’ crushing dominance which led to Hamilton winning six of his record-equalling seven world crowns.

But Wolff’s future as team principal is in the spotlight following Mercedes’ dramatic demise. And although he admitted he intends to stay on as team principal, the 51-year-old, who also holds a one-third shareholding in Mercedes, is plotting his succession plan.

“The clear aim is to build a structure for the future and that is my sheer responsibility for the team,” said Wolff, who was absent from the races in Japan and Qatar earlier this season following knee surgery.

“A stone could fall on my head and how does it look afterwards? That is why I would like to see myself in a few years maybe not going to 24 races, and just to 15.

“But that is many years away. I see myself in this role for a long time. I cannot imagine doing something else.

“I really struggled in 2020 to make a decision on whether I wanted to stay active in the sport or to be a shareholder and go back to my finance world. I was tired, mentally and physically, but then I came to the realisation that I wanted to continue.

“I feel I am contributing to the team in the crossover world of finance and motor racing, and I have a passion for both, and that is why I continue to do it.”

Over at Red Bull, Verstappen has won 17 of the 20 rounds so far – which included a record 10-in-a-row streak – in the most dominant season the sport has ever witnessed.

Wolff caused controversy when he poured scorn on Verstappen’s achievements, calling them “irrelevant” and “only for Wikipedia and nobody reads that anyway”.

“It was not an intelligent thing to say,” said Wolff.

“There were all these numbers about how many races we had won, and we used to joke that who cares about the numbers? It only goes on Wikipedia, and nobody reads that anyway. It was a joke, but it is much easier to joke about your own records than somebody else’s.

“His records are unbelievable and what he has been able to achieve clearly ranks him amongst the greatest drivers in the sport at that young age. I have clarified that with him.”

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