Mercedes Executive Director Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton needs to be appreciated while he’s performing at his best and winning titles rather than just when his career is over.
Hamilton secured a fifth drivers’ championship at the Mexican Grand Prix, with fourth place enough for him to join Juan Manuel Fangio’s total. Only Michael Schumacher has more titles to his name and Wolff believes Hamilton will be recognized as a Formula 1 great once he stops racing but wants people to appreciate his quality while he is still at the top of his game.
“I don’t think we ever get to acknowledge greatness,” Wolff said. “You get to acknowledge when the career is over but I think we need to somehow realize that there’s a five-time world champion that has just equaled Fangio’s record, and there’s not many amongst them out there.
“This is the best Lewis I’ve seen in the last six years. He’s driven better, he’s been better out of the car. Very, very complete. But as we try to reach for more it’s never completely complete.”
Wolff says Hamilton has the right mindset to get close to Schumacher’s record, as the 33-year-old will not get distracted even as he moves closer to the German’s tally.
“As long as he’s in a good car and he continues enjoying in the way he does today, I think there’s more to come. I think the reason why he’s won the fifth championship is that he concentrates on the job in hand and not look too far away. Because, before reaching seven, there’s a sixth to win. We haven’t scored a single point for that one.”
Four of Hamilton’s five titles have come with Mercedes, and Wolff highlights the atmosphere and outlook within the team as allowing Hamilton to perform to his best.
“(Hamilton is) very calm, very to the point. I think this is a great environment that we have created in the team. That we are able really to challenge each other — and on Friday the debrief here was a challenging one.
“We weren’t happy with where we were with the car and there is a brutal honesty. That needs a safe environment and this exists in Mercedes. That’s why he’s very active and he’s become more active in the past years, too.”