Toto Wolff hailed Lewis Hamilton as “the best that there has ever been” after the seven-time world champion became the first driver to win 100 races in Formula 1.
Hamilton was left to wait a little while since his 99th victory at Silverstone, going four races without a win before securing the top spot late in the Russian Grand Prix after a heavy downpour. Wolff believes the landmark achievement will only get brief recognition at the moment but will be appreciated more in the future as others try to get near his tally.
“It’s one of these things, he wins the 100th race and it’s in the news today and tomorrow, and then the world is moving on,” Wolff said. “The truth is that when we look back in many years, it’s very special to have been part of that journey and witness of this journey, because he is the all-time record holder. I think these records speak for themselves. He’s just the best that there has ever been.”
Hamilton’s win takes him nine clear of Michael Schumacher’s total of 91. In Sunday’s race, Lando Norris led and kept Hamilton at bay in the dry before the rain at the end saw Mercedes make the right strategic call to pit.
“Lewis was stuck behind (Daniel) Ricciardo at the beginning of the race, although Ricciardo had DRS,” Wolff said. “I think it would have been difficult to pass. They had a fast car, and it was well managed from his side. I think they had a bit of a fuel worry, it seemed, and then when he picked up the pace, he was very quick.”
“No, we didn’t expect that. We were prepared to brace for the tough end, whether we could overtake Lando on-track or not. And then the rain hit, and things got pretty erratic at that stage. I understand why it was so difficult for McLaren to take this decision to stay out or come in. As a leader, you can only lose. We benefitted from that (Sunday), and it’s spectacular for the fans I guess.”
The race hinged on Mercedes telling Hamilton to pit on two consecutive laps, with the demand being followed on the second occasion while Norris stayed out on slicks — a call that Wolff understood.
“I think for the driver, it’s always very difficult when half of the track is dry and the other one is just a bit humid,” he said. “We knew that the big weather was coming. So Valtteri (Bottas) pitted the lap before, and then the strategists were adamant to pit.”