Crash.Net F1 News
Wolff happy with Hamilton
14 February 2013
New Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff admits that he is excited by the driver line-up assembled by the marque's F1 squad for 2013.
The former Williams CEO switched camps last month, admitting that the Mercedes job was one he could not afford to turn down, and swapped the combination of Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas for Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. With the Three Pointed Star hoping to be more of a factor than it was at the end of last season, and Wolff targeting a top four constructors' finish, the Swiss is confident that, in terms of drivers at least, it is already onto a winner.
“Both of them are very experienced drivers,” he told the official F1 website, “Lewis was a world champion with McLaren, [while] Nico is a front-running driver. He has been a frontrunner and in first place whenever the car was there.”
Despite admitting that he has not had time to get to know either driver that well, Wolff appears particularly impressed with Hamilton, who moves over from a McLaren team that delivered him to four wins in 2012.
“I've had nice discussions with Lewis over the last couple of days and I must say it's no wonder he is where he is,” Wolff revealed, “I think, for him, [coming to Mercedes] is also a new experience - being out of a structure he has been used to for so many years – [but] he is intelligent, switched on and has a huge amount of social intelligence. He is incredibly talented from what I have witnessed as an observer.
“In fact, I have watched both [drivers] from their early days because of my activities with driver management and F3 engines, and now I am really looking forward to establishing nice relationships with two personalities of the sport.”
Wolff may not be quite so taken with Hamilton, however, if claims from one eminent F1 journalist prove to be true. Although the Briton appeared 'on it' in testing at Jerez last week, veteran scribe Tony Dodgins remains convinced that he did not make the move to Brackley in the belief that Mercedes could deliver him to a second world title.
“If you compare the two [teams], you must come to the conclusion that there were no sporting reasons for him to leave McLaren,” he was quoted by the Swiss magazine Speed Week, “I think it's because Lewis is strongly driven by his management, [and] this management is extremely money-oriented.”
Hamilton, having ditched his father as manager, is currently directed by music impresario Simon Fuller, who is renowned for taking personalities beyond their own particular sphere and transforming them into global entities – something Hamilton appeared to have embraced in a number of ways in the past 18 months. In the past couple of weeks, Hamilton has made another change in his management, with American Tom Shine taking over from the highly respected Didier Coton, who Hamilton was praised for taking on in 2012. Coton also represents new Williams signing Valtteri Bottas.
“Fuller is obviously a highly successful manager, but I would not call him a racer,” Dodgins added, “I'm not even sure if he is interested in the sport, [but he] strongly advised Hamilton to go to Mercedes, for the simple reason that he could make more money than if he was at McLaren.”
Hamilton has continued to downplay his expectations for the year ahead, telling several publications that he still does not expect to win races.
“The McLaren was better, but that's not a surprise,” he told Gazzetta della Sport after comparing cars, “I could see last year that the Mercedes was often a second off the best, sometimes two seconds, but I was prepared for that. I could tell [at the Jerez test] that the Mercedes had less downforce than the McLaren. But it's not catastrophic. I've got ideas on how we can improve two or three things.”
Despite the pessimistic prognosis, however, Hamilton insists that he needed a change of scenery.
“Definitely things weren't as good as they had been at McLaren,” he said of his new home, “I was driving a competitive car, I could win races, battle with Sebastian Vettel, but I perhaps stayed there too long.
“I need new challenges. I can't stay for 25 years in the same office, doing the same things. And McLaren had become a bit like an office for me - the routine, the same gym, the same factory in which I knew what was in every single corner...”