Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff feels that the ‘version’ of Lewis Hamilton that he deals with today is distinctly different from the one who first entered the headquarters at Brackley.
Hamilton is currently one of the longest-serving drivers in F1 and has seven world championships to his name.
Although he earlier seemed to have suggested that he would cut his F1 career short to pursue his interest in the entertainment industry, he has been focused on achieving an elusive eighth drivers’ championship.
While he was on the cusp of doing so a couple of years back, dubious decision-making meant that his wait continues till date.
Hamilton has been at Mercedes since 2013 and while he was expected to extend his contract at the Silver Arrows even before the current season began, he is yet to sign the deal.
Sponsorship commitments have now been mentioned as the main reason behind him taking his time over confirming his position at Mercedes beyond 2023, but how Hamilton is today is distinctly different from the driver Wolff met all those years back.
“We’re both very ambitious and we trust in both our ambition and determination,” Wolff said.
“Whether it was a great run or more difficult like now, it’s a partnership that goes beyond the racing side because we are in the same boat. He always says we win and we lose together.”
Wolff believes it is not necessarily in a bad connotation, but he now deals with Lewis 2.0, a version of the driver who has come to terms with the fact that he is no longer the sport’s premier driver.
This thought is justified by the fact that Hamilton is yet to win a single race since 2021 and Mercedes itself has only managed one GP triumph in this duration, coming through the efforts of teammate George Russell.
“He’s still able to scrutinise himself every day in order to become a better person, a better racing driver, a better manager, a better entrepreneur, and a better human being,” Wolff said.
“People who take it for a fact that ‘This is who I am,’ that’s not his attitude, not his mindset. It’s difficult to actually change your personality or your mindset, values, and learnings, but he does that. He embraces that.”
There is always chatter about a team’s dominance. While Mercedes was the team to beat till a few years back, Red Bull and Max Verstappen appear to have assumed that title now.
The Silver Arrows are very much part of the chasing pack, but this isn’t a major deterrent for Wolff.
The Austrian believes that although Mercedes still sets lofty standards for itself, they are not overly dismayed by their current position.
“It’s not a disaster, but it’s still not where we aim to be,” he said.
“From a human standpoint, it’s very difficult because it’s not like you know that in six months we’re going to be competitive, or in a year’s time we’re fighting for a championship.
“You just need to put one foot in front of the other and try to get back to the summit, while always having this question mark, ‘When is it going to happen?’”