Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff concedes that Sir Lewis Hamilton is in a “different situation” now than he has been for much in his career, but maintains that this is not going to demotivate him.
Hamilton sits sixth in the Drivers’ Standings having achieved a best finish of third at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and has been out-qualified by newcomer team-mate George Russell twice in the opening five rounds of the year.
The 37-year-old vowed to “forget” about the awful weekend he suffered in Imola last time out, and he appears to have done just that in Florida as he qualified sixth while Russell found himself eliminated from Q2.
However, Russell made a different strategy work to finish ahead of Hamilton on Sunday.
Mercedes have languished behind Red Bull and Ferrari this year due to the abundance of issues caused by the new technical regulations, not least of which is the “porpoising” as the lower ride height of the cars sees the floor bounce off the track surface.
The subsequent lack of performance has led the likes of Jacques Villeneuve to suggest that Hamilton is struggling to acclimatise to new midfield environment, while his former team-mate Nico Rosberg said it was “easy for Lewis to lose it” in times of adversity.
Wolff dismisses this, adding that Russell’s accustomization to running further down the field does not alter his attitude towards helping improve the car.
“I don’t see any mental weakness with Lewis,” he told Formula1.com.
“Clearly, when you’re fighting for a championship four months ago and suddenly you’re not at the front, that’s a different situation.
“But it does not have a negative impact. George is coming from a car that was at the back of the grid, but the way he approaches developing the car makes no difference. He’s very methodological whether he’s P1 or P11.”
The seven-time champion has not achieved the success he has without tackling pernicious issues with car performance, and after listening to Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko suggest that he “should have stopped” after last season, he insists that such remarks will only motivate him more.
“People always love you when you’re up and love to kick you when you’re down,” he said ahead of the weekend.
“That’s a part of life, naturally I’ve seen some of the things [from] people I’ve grown up admiring and even people in the sport that have come out with certain comments, some disrespectful, some just not particularly respectful of my name.
“I think for me, I take that as fuel, I’m putting that into the pot and I’m turning that into a positive and I’m going to come back stronger.
“We are going to come back stronger as a team and four bad races or five, six, seven, 10 bad races is not going to stop being from doing what I love doing, it’s not going to stop me in my tracks.
“I’ve been racing 19 years and I’ve had way more difficult times than this and I’ve bounced back so it’s not how you fall, it’s how you get up and that for me is just highlighting to those people that nothing you say or do is going to stop me.”