Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton says that a winter meeting in late 2016 with team boss Toto Wolff helped to reset their relationship, and bring the team together again for the 2017 season.
Relationships within the Mercedes team had grown increasingly strained since 2014, with things reaching a head in 2016. Two early-season collisions between Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg led to Wolff threatening to suspend both drivers should it happen again, whilst internal and external decisions only stoked the fire.
Whilst things seemed to cool as the season drew on, the final race saw relationships tested once again. Hamilton, losing the championship and seeing holding up Rosberg as the only way to win, deliberately disobeyed team orders to speed up – putting Rosberg in danger of being overtaken and losing points. He followed this through to the flag, eventually losing the title and leaving Mercedes with two drivers they were unable to control.
Thankfully for the team though, Rosberg announced his retirement just days after taking the title. This led to a meeting between the remaining Mercedes driver and Wolff – one which Hamilton told Motorsport.com he believes helped to reset the relationship ahead of the 2017 season.
“If you are at the office and your boss doesn’t want you there it’s going to be a s*** environment, isn’t it? You want to work there but you don’t.”
“That’s just negativity drawing away from what you’re great at.
“That meeting was really important to reset things, so when I arrive and the guys know I’m going to be giving it everything, they work that extra bit harder, and vice versa.
“If there’s any negativity or question, it can only hold us back, so it was almost a purification of the relationship, and a re-start of the solid foundation we had already built years ago.”
“I don’t look at myself as the leader of the team – I believe I am a small link in a long chain,” the Briton added. “We all play a key link.
“The key is making the link as strong as it can be and that’s what we have managed to do this year.”