ABOVE: Jean Todt with world champion Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff and Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas at the FIA prize-giving gala last month.
FIA president Jean Todt admits he has been left “speechless” by the way Mercedes has managed to sustain its success over the past six seasons.
The former Ferrari team principal won six constructors’ championships in a row but the first of those came when Mika Hakkinen won the drivers’ title with McLaren. That meant Mercedes set a new benchmark with six consecutive championship doubles in 2019, and Todt says the scale of the achievement is not being fully recognized.
“It’s amazing,” Todt said. “I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to achieve that. For me, I have been thinking very often, it’s like an athlete having to (lift) 200kg (441 lbs) up and keep it up, and normally it comes down.
“I have full respect and it reminds me of some memories, even if I must admit that they did better — 6 and 6, we did 6 and 5 — and with a strong competition. I would say speechless and it’s up to the others to (end the run).
“I feel that (last year’s) championship was very difficult for them, much more than it may look, but simply it’s a combination — you must have a great driver, a great car and a great team, because it’s so competitive. If you don’t have those three together it cannot work.
“To do that six years in a row is remarkable, particularly when you have other teams like Ferrari, Red Bull — now with Honda — and great drivers.”
Lewis Hamilton has won five of the past six drivers’ championships, but while Formula 1 CEO Chase Carey admits he’d like the Briton to race forever, Todt sees a number of young candidates to become the next superstar of the sport.
“It’s fantastic to have a personality and a talent like Lewis, but it’s part of the story of motorsport. Every decade you have some special talents, before Lewis you had Michael (Schumacher), you had (Juan Manuel) Fangio, (Jim) Clark, (Jackie) Stewart — there has always been some amazing talents and one day Lewis will go and some new talents will have been confirmed.
“In terms of (Max) Verstappen, (Charles) Leclerc, newcomers, the car will help them as I’m sure it will some new drivers like (Lando) Norris, (George) Russell, (Pierre) Gasly — they are very talented drivers and when they have the car, and the personality behind, that will be the Lewis of the new generation.”