Shropshire Star

Toto Wolff confident he can lead struggling Mercedes back to top of Formula One

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari.

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A bullish Toto Wolff insists he remains the right man to lead Mercedes and has backed Lewis Hamilton to land his record eighth world championship at Ferrari.

Hamilton’s Mercedes team arrive for this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix following a string of underwhelming results which leaves them a distant fourth in the constructors’ championship.

Hamilton, who is departing the Silver Arrows at the end of the year to join the Scuderia, will gear up for Sunday’s 78-lap race here in the principality only eighth in the standings, with just 35 points on the board, compared to championship leader Max Verstappen’s 161.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is eighth in the world championship (David Davies/PA)

Mercedes enjoyed a unprecedented run at the summit of Formula One, winning eight straight team titles while also carrying Hamilton to six of his seven championships. But their form since Hamilton lost the 2021 decider to Verstappen has put Wolff’s future in the spotlight.

However, the Austrian, 52, who signed a three-year deal to remain as team principal prior to this season, told the PA news agency: “I have always been very self-critical and introspective. Is this what I am good at? Am I working in something that I understand and I feel I can contribute?

“I ask myself that question all the time, for 30 years and the decision I have taken is that I am a co-owner of this business and I am going to stay a co-owner of this business, whether I am team principal or CEO or chairman.

“I have had it in the past where suddenly you have that moment where you think there is somebody that could do this better, whether that is because they have more energy, more intelligence, more knowledge, or more compassion.

“That day will come but jointly (with co-owners’ Ineos and Mercedes-Benz AG) we have not identified who the next person will be.

“I still love it. Maybe one day I wake up and I don’t love it. There might be a stone falling on my head and I am not team principal anymore. But this is the destiny I am choosing with my co-shareholders.

“I have signed a new three-year contract and I am going to be the most permanent unless I die, but maybe in various roles in the top management.”

Wolff also defended Mercedes’ recent record, pointing to both Ferrari and McLaren who last took a driver to the title in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

He continued: “We have finished first 115 times and we have been knocked down over the last 50 races. That is not where we want to be and it feels horrible on the day. But on the Monday morning we regroup and we go again.

“Ferrari haven’t won a constructors’ championship since 2008. Red Bull did not win eight times in a row because we were winning.

“So we have to look at it with a certain perspective and say it is the third year where we have not won. It is not eight. It is not 16. When did McLaren win their last constructors’ championship? 1998. And their last drivers’ title? With Lewis in 2008.

“We finished second last year. It is not good enough but if you look at it in 10 or 20 years, you will see that we won eight championships in a row and then we lost three, or maybe four, but not 16.”

Wolff will be without Hamilton as he bids to turn Mercedes into a tour de force once more. The 39-year-old stunned the sport by cancelling his Mercedes deal a year earlier to switch to Ferrari.

Hamilton’s decision in February coincided with the release of Netflix’s latest Drive to Survive series which celebrated the British driver’s decision to stay at the Silver Arrows. In the episode, Wolff said he couldn’t imagine Hamilton in red. Does that comment sting Wolff?

“That is what he said to me,” he replied. “He said he was going to stay and then he decided to go.

“But people change their minds and circumstances change and you have to respect that. Today’s opinion might be different tomorrow and I have no hard feelings.

“If Ferrari is able to give Lewis a competitive car, he can win a world championship, there is no doubt about that.

“I will always have a personal relationship with Lewis and I will look back at the great times, professionally and personally. When Lewis moves to Ferrari he becomes a competitor but I will always wish him happy days.”

Max Verstappen
Toto Wolff has not given up hope of signing Max Verstappen (David Davies/PA)

Mercedes protege, Italian teenager Kimi Antonelli, 17, could be handed the opportunity to replace Hamilton and join George Russell at Mercedes.

However, Wolff remains hopeful he can steal Verstappen away from Red Bull, citing McLaren’s recent resurgence as proof that Mercedes could provide the Dutchman with a winning machine.

Wolff added: “Max is not going to get in a car that is not competitive and at the moment we are not competitive enough to lure a world champion.

“But we have to see how the next months go. Look at McLaren. If we can put four tenths on the car, we will be very competitive. I have to wait for the moment. There is no urgency.”

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