Toto Wolff explains why Lewis Hamilton wasn’t on his ‘A-Game’

2022 was Mercedes' first season of the hybrid era where they didn't claim the Constructors' Championship.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that last season was more like “live testing” for them than “really racing”, with Lewis Hamilton in particular having spent the majority of the season focused on developing the ‘diva’ W13.

The Silver Arrows won’t be looking back on 2022 anytime soon, with the Germans having endured a horrific season, which included, just one win, and one pole position.

Both came courtesy of their new recruit, George Russell, who performed valiantly in his first season for the Brackley-based outfit.

Russell spent the majority of last season focusing on his performance, with Mercedes not necessarily wanting the 24-year-old to be thrown into the deep-end in terms of car development.

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It made perfect sense for Hamilton to be used to test a variety of setups, given his wealth of experience.

The tactic ultimately worked, as whilst Hamilton was busy developing the W13, Russell was more often than not claiming solid podium finishes.

Remarkably, he ended the year ahead of the seven-time World Champion in the Drivers’ Championship, making him just the third team-mate of Hamilton’s to ever do so.

Fighting for podiums rather than wins, though, isn’t what Mercedes are all about, at least in the hybrid era.

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Since 2014, the Germans have been incredibly dominant, with 2022 being the first season since the introduction of the hybrid era where they didn’t claim the Constructors’ Championship.

Reflecting on 2022, Wolff admits that the W13 was “really a handful”, and ultimately wasn’t “competitive” enough to be at the front.

“I would say the car we gave the two drivers was really a handful,” Wolff told GPFans.

“[It was] very unpredictable, difficult to drive, and not competitive to race at the front.

“Therefore, it was more live testing than really racing.”

Hamilton did eventually claim some strong results himself, with the 38-year-old having arguably been the better Mercedes driver during the second half of the season.

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In Wolff’s words, Hamilton returned to his “A-game” mid-season, once the team got the W13 to a “sensible point”.

“Once we got to a sensible point, he got back to his A-game,” Wolff added.

“Fundamentally, he is there to win races and fight for wins, yet more than half of the season was a development game.”