Hamilton endorses Mercedes boss Wolff for F1 top job

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the pit lane during the first practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Spielberg circuit yesterday.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in the pit lane during the first practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix at the Spielberg circuit yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

SPIELBERG • Lewis Hamilton performed a U-turn on Thursday and said his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff would be the right man to run Formula One, days after saying the next person to do the job should be an outsider.

The sport is run by American chairman Chase Carey, representing commercial rights holders Liberty Media, whose future at the helm after 2020 is the subject of paddock speculation.

Carey has said nothing about stepping down, while Wolff has tried to distance himself from the chatter by saying he is not contemplating a move from a team chasing a sixth successive constructors' and drivers' title double.

Five-time world champion Hamilton, who leads the standings on 187 points ahead of this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix, said at last Sunday's French Grand Prix those running the sport should be neutral.

"I've been a bit conflicted the last few days," he said on Thursday.

"I made a comment, but I don't feel like I got out exactly what I was meaning.

"Over these past couple of days I was thinking, bringing someone in that doesn't know much about Formula One is not necessarily the right decision. I think Toto could do a pretty special job."

The question of who runs the sport post-2020 is a sensitive issue for teams, who are working with the governing body and other stakeholders on major rule changes aimed at making the sport more equal and improving the racing.

But a plan to revert to 2018 tyres to enliven the racing failed to gain approval at a meeting yesterday.

The teams met tyre suppliers Pirelli and the meeting considered a proposal to re-introduce last year's tyre compounds, but it did not gain majority support.

Last year's tyres were more prone to blistering and disintegrating and thus helped produce more unpredictable contests.

The idea came to the fore following last weekend's race at Le Castellet, where the dominant Mercedes team reeled off a record eighth consecutive season-opening victory with a triumphant one-two finish.

No other team have won any of the last 10 races as Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas have turned the championship into a two-man race with Ferrari struggling.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc refused to fuel any false optimism.

"I think at the moment it's quite difficult. They seem very, very quick," said the 21-year-old, when asked if Ferrari could give Mercedes a tough time at the Red Bull Ring.

"They were extremely quick in Paul Ricard, so we are focusing on ourselves and trying to do the best job possible.

"But, to be honest, it's quite difficult to be at their level."

Meanwhile, Hamilton lapped fastest in the first practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix yesterday with Ferrari's Vettel splitting the two Mercedes at the top of the timesheets.

Hamilton set a best time of one minute and 04.838 seconds at the Spielberg circuit, 0.144 quicker than Vettel.

Hamilton's teammate Bottas ended up third fastest, 0.017 slower than Vettel.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2019, with the headline 'Hamilton endorses Mercedes boss Wolff for F1 top job'. Print Edition | Subscribe