Toto Wolff is again standing guard for Sir Lewis Hamilton after criticism of the seven-time champion following the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
As Mercedes tried to find ways to mitigate the “porpoising” incited by the new technical regulations, Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were forced to close DRS early and lift off on the straights in Imola as they continued to run over a second adrift of Red Bull’s pace in Bologna.
They were not helped by the difficulties in working the tyres into an optimal operating window as a legacy of adverse weather conditions and persistent red flags in qualifying, but that ultimately comes down to fundamental flaws with the W13.
After what had been another immensely difficult weekend for the Silver Arrows, George Russell recovered to P4 amid changing conditions in the race, while Hamilton got caught for over 40 laps behind Pierre Gasly as he ended the race 13th.
Wolff apologised to the 37-year-old over the radio after the race, and clarified that the free air Russell enjoyed was more suitable for their temperamental car.
He has reiterated that Mercedes let Hamilton down in Imola, not the other way around after 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg suggested his former team-mate has “a role to play” in the dejecting day on his side of the garage.
“Well, you know in a way I have to protect him here. It’s not his low. It’s the low of the car performance,” he said, quoted by F1.com.
“We know that he is a seven-time world champion. He caught up last year, him and us the team caught up and nearly fought for the championship.”
The Austrian affirms that the great ones have the capacity to bounce back from poor results, and does not doubt that Hamilton can do the same having traversed many challenging moments in his career to this point.
“The guy is the best driver in the world, and he’s just not having a machine and equipment underneath him to be able to execute… In a way I think it’s irrelevant if you come in eighth or 12th or 15th, it doesn’t matter; it’s all bad. But the real stars recover,” he explained.
“There are none out there of the really great ones that come into my mind that didn’t have certain moments in their career where things didn’t run properly, and that is the case now with him since a long time.
“He’s going to help the team to sort things out, we are sticking together through good and bad times and today [at Imola] was certainly a very bad day.”
As for Russell, the 24-year-old has out-qualified Hamilton twice this season while out-racing him in each of the last three grand prix, potentially helping to cement himself as a future number one driver at the team.
Such ambitions will have to be put on hold for now though, and the young Briton himself has acknowledged the importance of working cohesively with his team-mate to steer the team back in the right direction.
Wolff divulges that the new signing this season has provided plenty of efficacious information to the team as they attempt to comprehend and eradicate the problems that have kept them off the top step this season, and his integration with Hamilton pleases the 50-year-old.
“Yes, I’m very impressed with how [George has] settled in, how professionally and analytically he helps to assess the situation,” he added.
“The combination is one of the very few highlights I have at the moment on our journey – how well the two of them work together, with no friction; on the contrary, [they’re] very productive and positive for the team.”
As a result, Wolff could not ask for a better driver line-up, and he hopes to be able to provide them with a more competitive package in return for their relentless efforts in the enigma that is the 2022 Mercedes car.
“And I couldn’t be happier with the driver line-up. In that respect I think we have the two best drivers, maybe two of the three best drivers and they deserve a car and a power unit that fights at the front rather than them being lapped,” stated Wolff.
“That’s not what any of them deserves.”
Mercedes are third in the Constructors’ Championship after their disappointing weekend in Bologna, 47 points adrift of leaders Ferrari.