Formula One: Wolff sympathetic to Hamilton’s frustration at under-performing Mercedes

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton before the practice session for the Saudi Arabian grand prix. PHOTO: REUTERS

JEDDAH – Toto Wolff admitted on Friday that he would not blame Lewis Hamilton for leaving Mercedes if the team failed to give him a realistic chance of competing for a record eighth Formula One world title.

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the Mercedes team boss did, however, made clear it he did not want the Briton to leave and did not think that he would.

“I don’t think Lewis will leave Mercedes,” said Wolff.

“He’s at the stage of a career where we trust each other, we have formed a great bond and we have no reason to doubt each other – even though this is a difficult spell.

“It will be so nice when we come out of this valley of tears and come back to solid performances. Nevertheless, as a driver, if he wants to win another championship, he needs to make sure he has the car.

“And if we cannot demonstrate that we are able to give him a car in the next couple of years, then he needs to look elsewhere.

“I don’t think he is doing it at this stage, but I will have no grouch if that happens in a year or two.”

Hamilton, who is out of contract at the end of the season, said on Thursday that he did not plan to leave Mercedes, but he is enduring the longest winless run of his career and failed to win a single race last season for the first time.

The 38-year-old and teammate George Russell struggled at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix where they finished fifth and seventh respectively and could not compete with the victorious Red Bull, Ferrari or Aston Martin teams.

That setback led to a crisis meeting from which the team were determined to make major changes, after recognising the concept of their car is wrong and they need to go back to the drawing board.

On the sidelines, Hamilton announced a split from his long-time performance coach Angela Cullen on Friday.

She has been a constant paddock presence, supporting him in a role that was part personal assistant and part confidante.

“For the last seven years, Angela Cullen has been by my side, pushing me to be the best version of myself,” Hamilton posted on social media.

“I am a stronger athlete and a better person because of her.

“So today I hope you’ll join me in wishing her the very best as she takes her next steps to pursue her dreams.

“Thank you for everything Ang, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you.”

Cullen said on her Instagram page that she was “grateful and blessed” and added that it was an honour and pleasure to stand alongside Hamilton.

Wolff, meanwhile, suggested to Autosport that it was Hamilton who wanted the split as part of an “honest” appraisal.

“I think in every team, whether that is his close circle, or also in the wider group... we all develop as people,” he said.

“We develop as an organisation and if things don’t work out any more, then we need to be honest and then bring change.” AFP, REUTERS

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