Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff wants people to recognize Lewis Hamilton’s greatness while he’s racing, and is unhappy at the “envy and negativity” towards the Briton.
Hamilton finished second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards on Sunday night, but has since apologized for stating he came from “slums” during the ceremony. Although Hamilton immediately corrected his use of the word at the time, he still received criticism. Wolff believes the lack of appreciation is a European trait that he wants to change.
“Not everybody recognizes a great career, a great sportsman or greatness overall while it’s happening,” Wolff told Reuters. “There is a lot of negativity and envy whilst it happens.
“It’s only being recognized once a career has ended as having been really great and I don’t know why that is. We are extremely privileged in following a career of maybe the greatest racing driver of all time.
“Obviously Michael [Schumacher] has set the records and was unbelievable but Lewis is on a similar trajectory. Also with Michael, it was only recognized after he retired and even more when tragedy struck. And I think it’s a pity.
“We are live spectators, live witnesses of a great racing driver at the peak of his abilities. In the U.S. you are very much inspired by success. In Europe it triggers much more envy and negativity.
“I am certainly biased because I have an emotional attachment to Lewis, for me the greatest sports person that is in his career in Britain.”
After apologizing on Instagram for his choice of words that were linked to his hometown of Stevenage, Hamilton later said he would not let the criticism affect him.
Wolff says the 33-year-old’s character is one to be applauded.
“Everybody wants to be recognized, particularly in their own country and in order to achieve the success he has, you need to be sensitive.
“He is that exceptional sports personality also because he polarizes. And I think at the end of the day, he’s thinking that he’d rather polarize than be just in the middle and boring.
“He stays true to himself and his values and that is the most important thing.”