Wolff scoffs at Hamilton ‘quit’ hint

Wolff scoffs at Hamilton ‘quit’ hint

IMOLA • Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff on Sunday dismissed the possibility that Lewis Hamilton is poised to retire from Formula One and said he did not believe it was about to happen.

The Austrian boss, who hours earlier had joined the six-time world champion as the team celebrated their record seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, suggested the Briton’s comments were made while he was emotional and tired in the heat of the moment.

Hamilton had claimed that he could not guarantee he was staying in the motor sport, saying: “I would like to be here next year, but there’s no guarantee.

“There’s a lot that excites me in the afterlife so time will tell.”

However, Wolff, who aims to step down next year from his role as Mercedes team principal, expects to see Hamilton back for a 15th year in F1.

“I guess if he were to decide to step out of Formula One, which I don’t think is going to happen – and I hope is not going to happen – then I think we are going to have a pretty frantic driver market out there,” he said.

He added that he believed “emotions” had gotten to Hamilton, with the 35-year-old heavily involved in campaigning against racial injustice, police brutality in the United States and Nigeria and Black Lives Matter issues, particularly this year.

“I think it’s the moment. We are all happy, but very tired also,” Wolff said. “And it’s the same for me.

“I completely relate to his feeling that you question yourself, that you think about all the other things that matter – and when you switch on the news in the morning and switch them off in the evening, it’s all about the struggles that we all face.

“We are here now in our little happy place where we try to bring some entertainment into households, but then you’re back in the more difficult reality next day – and all of that is something that affects us.

“In that respect, it’s normal for somebody who’s empathetic to have these feelings.

“Like Niki Lauda, in the 70s, you could wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m just not having fun any more’ and that can happen to anybody.

“But we want to continue this journey. We are not finished. Lewis and I and all the team – we are not finished.”

Hamilton will win this season’s drivers’ championship, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record in the process, at next weekend’s race in Turkey if teammate Valtteri Bottas of Finland fails to out-score him by more than seven points.

There are three more grands prix after Istanbul, two races in Bahrain followed by the finale in Abu Dhabi.