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Cryptic Hamilton keeps them guessing

NEWS STORY
02/11/2020

Maybe it was cynicism after the many years of smoke and mirrors under Bernie, but there were times over the weekend when it felt we were all being played.

Never more so than after the race which saw yet another 1-2 from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas secure a seventh consecutive constructors' title for Mercedes, as the German team racked up its 100th win since the introduction of the hybrid formula in 2014.

With his contract coming to an end this year, Toto Wolff had spent much of the weekend, much like he's spent so many weekend's lately, playing games with the media as they sought to discover whether he will continue with the German team and in what role, the Austrian further muddying the waters with each reply.

Then came the post-race celebrations, which, along with an 'end-of-term' feel, also had an element of grandstanding, as if a script was being played out, a message being sent out... but to whom?

The post-race press release came with a comment from a Daimler executive, who, if nothing else, appears to have the longest job title in the history of job titles, and then we had Lewis suggesting that he may not be on the grid next season.

In the moments after the race, Wolff, when asked about his own future, got the ball rolling, telling Sky Sports: "My situation is a little bit different, because I'm a co-owner with Mercedes of the team, so I'm never going to abandon it, because it's just what I love to do. What's better than to be part of a sports team, to be part of such a fantastic gang of people?"

Referring to comments made earlier in the weekend, when once again he had suggested that while he may continue with Mercedes it could be in another role, and admitted that he was already on the look-out for a possible successor, he added: "What I said is that I believe everybody has a shelf life in a role. I haven't come to the end of mine, I think I can still contribute. But I need to think about the future also going forward. Bringing somebody up, developing him doing this role, is something that is a fantastic challenge for me that will be one of the next chapters. But you will see me around for a while."

Asked if he has someone in mind, the Austrian smiled, and stopping short of saying, 'I have, but if I tell you I would have to kill you', simply replied: "I have, but I can't tell you."

At the driver press conference, when asked about Wolff's comments, Hamilton dropped his own little bombshell. When asked, if he is concerned that with someone else at the helm the team might not be able to maintain the same level of success, the Briton, who like Wolff is out of contract this year, said: "I don't even know if I'm going to be here next year so it's not really a concern for me at the moment.

"I understand and we have a lot of deep conversations, Toto and I," he continued, "so I'm very, very aware of where he is mentally and we share a lot of... and carry a lot of the weight together.

"I think. Jeez, yeah, I've been in a long, long time. I can definitely understand wanting to pull back and give more time to family and those things. I don't know who he would be replaced by, but again, he's a leader, he's not going to put anyone that's not going to be able to do the job, not going to be up to it, who's not going to be geared up. He will find the right people.

"That's why we have the success we have, we've found the right people and put them in the position to be able to shine as bright as possible. He's just empowered every single person in the team, to be the best they can be. So he will find somebody that's able to take on and continue... But you know, it's not one person. The team is not about one person, it's a collective of a lot of people. Toto doesn't build the car, it's a real team effort. But I'm supportive of him, whatever he wants to do, moving forwards."

Asked to expand on his initial comment and explain whether there is a chance he will not be racing next season, Hamilton said: "Well, we're in November and I'm still... it's crazy that it's Christmas isn't that far away. Naturally, I feel great, I still feel very strong, I feel like I could keep going for plenty of months but you know, you mentioned about Toto and shelf-life so there's multiple things that do stay on the top of my mind but I would like to be here next year but there's no guarantee of that, for sure. There's a lot that excites me of the after life so time will tell."

To add to the mystery, amidst all the speculation, Wolff wasn't on the podium for this historic occasion, instead the honour went to Leo Stevens, the number two mechanic on Hamilton's car.

"Whilst it would have been nice for him to be up there with us, I think that's a real showing of a leader," said Hamilton, when asked about Wolff's absence. "He's not trying to be at the front of every photo. He's not trying to claim anything. He puts the team first.

"I think that without doubt he is the best leader here," he added. "It doesn't matter what anyone says, no-one has done as good a job as he has. I think it's his mentality, the balance of drive, compassion, understanding and ego. All of them come together to create the best boss you could have.

"Every single person in the team, no-one's below him, and he really cares about how everyone is doing: 'how're things away from the track?', 'how's things at home with your family - is there anything we can do so you can be better at the office?' He's a great guy and I feel privileged to have him as our leader. We wouldn't have been able to do this without his guidance."

"I guess if he were to decide to step out of Formula One, which I don't think is going to happen and I hope is not going to happen, I think we are going to have a pretty frantic driver market out there!" said Wolff when told of Hamilton's comments. "But I think it's the moment and the emotions, we are all happy but very tired also.

"It's the same for me," he added. "I completely relate with his feeling, that you question yourself and you think about all the other things that matter. When you switch on the news in the morning and you switch it off in the evening, it is all about the struggles that we all face.

"We are here in our little happy place and we are trying to bring some entertainment into households, but then you are back in the more difficult reality the next day. All of that is something that affects us and, in that respect, it's normal for someone who is apathetic to have these feelings."

Anyone else get the feeling that we... or at least someone, is being played?

Check out our Sunday gallery from Imola, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by equator180, 04/11/2020 1:11

"Lewis is going nowhere except to discuss how best to handle his 100 million over the next 2 years with his financial advisors, then perhaps he would refuse to share the 30 million with a wingman. "

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2. Posted by Burton, 02/11/2020 12:54

"They're so dominant on track they're getting their fun elsewhere."

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3. Posted by habentsen, 02/11/2020 10:44

"My bet is that Hamilton will retire and Verstappen will replace him."

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4. Posted by Motorsport-fan, 02/11/2020 9:33

"Is this the bombshell news Pitpass have been hinting at for most of the year, Lewis walking away?"

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5. Posted by Lapps, 02/11/2020 8:15

"I would put a small side bet on the next Team Boss at Mercedes being Andreas Seidl. As for Lewis, he is just keeping the price up!"

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