Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has been heaping praise on his star driver after Lewis Hamilton successfully clinched a seventh world championship, equalling the all-time F1 record set by Michael Schumacher.

Wolff said that with his latest achievement, Hamilton had “cemented his position among the all-time best sports people in the world.”.

“Where does it rank?” he replied when asked by the media. “He ranked in terms of his record on Michael’s level, in terms of driver world championships, and is the absolute record holder in pole positions and race victories.”

“We simply need to say congratulations to Lewis and to recognise the amazing job he is doing, setting new benchmarks in this sport,” he added. “We will be flying home together, so we will have to see how we celebrate. I’m sure we will find a way!”

Wolff said that he had been particularly impressed by the way that Hamilton went all-out for victory in Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix even though it wasn’t vital to clinch the championship.

With closest rival Valtteri Bottas spinning on the opening lap, the title battle was already effectively over. But that didn’t stop Hamilton pulling out all the stops to win the race so that he could celebrate on the top step of the podium.

“Yes, look at what has happened today, he was hungry as a lion,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1. “Driving a tyre [that was like] slicks at the end with a risk of rain, I don’t see any of the motivation dropping.

The podium (L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari, third; Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1, race winner and World Champion; Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director; Sergio Perez (MEX) Racing Point F1 Team, second.

“Even when on the grand scheme of things the absolute result didn’t matter a lot for his championship, he stayed hungry, he made no mistakes at all.

“It proves how committed he is, holding the discipline to stay at home, and come here and just execute perfectly.”

Wolff said that the decision to keep Hamilton out on an old set of intermediate tyres while others had stopped a second time for fresh sets had been crucial.

“Strategy-wise we did the right thing to keep him out there, because he was getting faster and faster and faster and there was no reason to pit him.

“We knew the integrity of the tyre was intact,” he continued. “In the end we were only a little bit worried if rain hit us, because by then the tyre was basically a slick.

©Mercedes

“So we left it open for him to pit. We told him we would be ready if he decided to do so,” he added. “He just stayed there and then eked out.”

Mercedes has already celebrated its own success in clinching a record seven consecutive constructors titles, a remarkable accomplishment especially given the difficulties faced by the sport in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This year was very very special because it was so difficult not only for us but for everybody in the world,” Wolff acknowledged. “I hope we were able to entertain the people.

“Coming out on top in such a year, after such a tough race, just feels exceptional.”

Race winner and World Champion Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with the team.

Remarkably Hamilton is still to confirm that he will stay at Mercedes in 2021, although his comments after today’s race suggested that was now pretty likely. But for Wolff it might mean a financial headache.

“It just got really more expensive today,” Wolff laughed when asked about Hamilton’s contract negotiations. “More than likely we are looking towards the end of the year.”

Wolff himself is also out of contract at Mercedes at the end of 2020 and refused to be drawn about his plans, although he admitted that whether Hamilton stayed at Brackley was a definite factor.

“Looking at Lewis, we have such a strong relationship that has built up over our years together. The team is 100 per cent behind him, he is 100 per cent behind the team.

“I think that we are both a factor of each other,” hw said. “There is such a big structure behind me from the team, that if I were to go they would still be winning.

“Whether that is something that I will also see as my obligation in the future, to make sure that the team is winning, then I will set the foundations for that,” he added. “But that moment has not yet come.”

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Source: Formula 1 – F1I