Tales from the paddock – Toto Wolff: “I’ve never seen Lewis operate at such a high level”

Formel 1 – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Großer Preis von Mexiko 2017. Lewis Hamilton
Formula One – Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Mexico GP 2017. Lewis Hamilton

The battle for 2017 F1 title is over: Lewis Hamilton is Formula 1 World Champion for the fourth time in his career

  • This is what happened: Results & facts
  • News from the Mercedes-AMG motorsport teams
  • Three questions for Toto Wolff

This is what happened: Weekend’s results & facts

  • Formula 1: Valtteri Bottas finishes second in the Mexican Grand Prix
  • Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton secures his fourth drivers’ world championship title
  • Australian Endurance Championship: Two podium spots for Mercedes-AMG GT3 at Hampton Downs Motorsport Park: Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey win the race while Max Twigg and Tony D’Alberto finish third

News snippets

A four-time World Champion: Job done! Lewis Hamilton has clinched the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship with two race weekends still to go, Lewis has taken his fourth title, the three previous campaigns having come in 2008, 2014 and 2015. He is now on level pegging with Alain Prost (1985, 1986, 1989, 1993) and Sebastian Vettel (2010-2013). Only the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio (1951, 1954-1957) and record championship winner Michael Schumacher (1994, 1995, 2000-2004) have secured more titles in the history of the highest echelon of the sport. It is also the 17th drivers’ title for a British racer and the sixth for the Silver Arrows (1954, 1955, 2014-2017).

#4TheTeam: With the Constructors’ Championship already having been wrapped up in Austin, the Silver Arrows have now won both titles for the fourth time in a row. Race runner-up Valtteri Bottas achieved his best result so far at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. It was his second podium finish in Mexico and the 20th of his Formula 1 career. At the same time, it marked the 290th Top Three result for a Mercedes-powered car. On Valtteri’s one and only pit stop (Lap 32), the crew performed the fastest wheel change of the race in a time of 2.19 seconds. After 18 of the 20 races in the current season, the team has 11 wins, 13 pole positions and 23 podiums to its credit.

Australian Endurance Championship still there to be won: Peter Hackett and Dominic Storey made a strong comeback at the weekend in the Hampton Downs 500 round of the Australian Endurance Championship. After incurring a six-place grid penalty which put them down to ninth, the two Australians in the number 63 Mercedes-AMG GT3 entered by Autex Eggleston Motorsport made steady progress through the field, eventually taking their first victory of the current Australian Endurance Championship after more than three hours of thrilling racing an impressive 27.543 seconds ahead of the runner-up. This result lifts Hackett and Storey from third to second in the table and puts them in with a realistic chance of nicking the 2017 Australian Endurance Championship title in the final fixture, the Highlands 501 in Cromwell, New Zealand, on the weekend of 10th – 12th November.

International GT Open – Coimbra and Silva emphasise dominance: António Coimbra and Luis Silva once again showed why they were runaway winners of the AM class in the 2017 International GT Open with two further outstanding performances in Barcelona. The Portuguese duo sharing the cockpit of the number 99 Mercedes-AMG GT3 entered by Sports & You finished third in their class in both races. Coimbra and Silva thus ended the campaign eleven points ahead of the runners-up in the AM classification. They had already wrapped up the class title on the previous race weekend.

Three questions for Toto Wolff

The Silver Arrows have now won the Constructors’ and the Drivers’ World Championships for the fourth year in succession. How would you rate each of these successes individually?

Toto Wolff: This year was quite definitely the most difficult to manage. That was because Ferrari raised the bar, and then Red Bull came into the game as well. As a team, you are always in a more comfortable situation when you know that it is one of your two drivers who is going to win the championship. Obviously, it is not always easy keeping the rivalry within the team in check, but it was far removed from the struggles of this year. I’m very proud of the first one in 2014, because we were so keen to win it. But this one was the most hard fought of all.

In Mexico, Lewis became World Champion for the fourth time in his career, which puts him on level pegging with Alain Prost and Sebastian Vettel. Is Lewis in the form of his life at the moment?

Toto Wolff: I’ve been working with him for five years now, and I’ve never seen him operate at such a high level. The raw pace is spectacular. He understands the tyres and the ability of the car which, at times, hasn’t been easy to drive. I haven’t seen such a sustained performance on that level before. After a difficult moment in Abu Dhabi last year, we had a long evening in my kitchen, during the course of which we aired all the frustrations and issues that had grown over the years and got them out of the way. I think that we both felt a sense of relief, and that was when the relationship went to the next level. He went off into the winter break, and he came back with a great mindset. He has grown stronger over the year. The relationship with Valtteri is also an important factor. We have a great spirit within the team. That was an important piece of the jigsaw.

You have described the W08 as a ‘diva’ at various points in the campaign. Yet despite that, the team has won both championships, registered the most victories and secured the most pole positions. So, what’s next for the ‘diva’?

Toto Wolff: We plan to keep the characteristics of our diva that we like but to get rid of the ones that have caused us difficulties. Many of the teams have struggled to understand the new cars and tyres, why they function one day and not the other. If we look at the qualifying statistics and the race statistics, the W08 was the quickest car with the quickest driver. But we had some oscillations along the way, and we had some races where we struggled. We understand pretty well why that was the case. Now we just have to come up with a way of optimising it for next year. In the process, we will be leaving no stone unturned.

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