Just days after the passing of Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff felt Lewis Hamilton’s performance in managing the Pirelli medium tyre to the end of the Monaco Grand Prix was a drive worthy of the late three-time World Champion, with Mercedes AMG Petronas winning their sixth race out of six in 2019 on Sunday.
Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, saw Mercedes’ run of one-two finishes end after Valtteri Bottas could only finish third behind Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the Circuit de Monaco, but he felt Hamilton’s performance on the medium tyre was ‘incredible’, particularly as hindsight would have dictated a move onto the hard compound.
Hamilton managed to use the tyre for sixty-eight laps despite almost constant pressure from Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who in turn was not far ahead of either Vettel or Bottas. With the help of motivation from the pit wall, Hamilton remained calm up front to take the victory despite a late attempt by Verstappen into the Nouvelle Chicane that saw the duo bang wheels.
“That result means a lot,” said Wolff. “It was a World Champions’ drive for a World Champion that isn’t among us anymore. It couldn’t have been a more dramatic race, so I am relieved it is over.
“Lewis did an incredible job out there, it was a really hard-fought race with Max. We know the tyre choice, in hindsight, was wrong with Lewis and we should’ve taken the Hard tyre at his stop. But, these things happen and at the time we thought the Medium was the right call. It was the driver who made the difference and managed the race.”
Bottas had taken the medium tyre as well on the same lap as Hamilton but was forced to pit again just one lap later after being pushed into the pit wall by Verstappen, who was issued with a five-second time penalty for an unsafe release as a result.
The additional stop relegated Bottas to fourth, a position he would remain until the chequered flag before being promoted to third once Verstappen’s penalty was applied. Wolff feels he did a great job in the circumstances and will come back strongly in the forthcoming races.
“Valtteri had a tougher time, losing ground with the pit stops and the clash with Verstappen in the pit lane, but he did a great job and will be determined to fight back,” said Wolff.
Wolff admits it has been a difficult time dealing with the loss of Lauda, and it will be difficult again this week heading to Vienna for the three-time World Champion’s funeral, after which concentration will then turn to the Canadian Grand Prix.
“This one was a really hard-fought victory and now we have a couple of days that are going to be difficult with Niki’s funeral in Vienna before we set sail for Canada,” said Wolff.