Wolff praises Hamilton for behaviour immediately after Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Sir Lewis Hamilton is set to be partnered by George Russell at Mercedes in 2022.

Hamilton and Verstappen in Abu Dhabi 2021.v1

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has applauded Sir Lewis Hamilton for his magnanimity in the immediate aftermath of the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton missed out on his record-breaking eighth world championship in last year’s season finale following a controversial Safety Car restart that saw Michael Masi renege on an earlier decision by only allowing a limited amount of lapped runners through past the Safety Car late on.

As a result, the Dutchman passed the 37-year-old on the final lap to seal a dramatic maiden world title.

READ: Verstappen: Success like Hamilton’s only possible with luck and ‘very dominant team’

Mercedes were left livid by the closing moments of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit, with Hamilton suggesting over the radio that the race had been “manipulated” by race control.

However, straight after the completion of the grand prix last month, he said in an interview with 2009 world champion Jenson Button: “Firstly, a big congratulations to Max and to his team.”

The 37-year-old has been silent ever since, and his only public appearances have taken place when he received his knighthood and then when he celebrated his Mercedes team’s record eighth straight Constructors’ Championship.

Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia, 2021.v1

This has led to rumours of his retirement, but belief is now growing that he will be on the grid for the 2022 season and, if he does, he will be partnered by new signing George Russell, who has joined from Williams to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas.

Questions have been raised as to whether Russell will be able to challenge Hamilton at the team, or whether he will be forced into a support role akin to his Finnish predecessor.

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Asked about the possibility of the 23-year-old acting as a number two to Hamilton, Wolff explained his experienced driver’s position, indicating that the Briton will want a fair fight.

He cited the 37-year-old’s grace after losing the title to Verstappen as an example of his mentality.

“The measure of Lewis is often wrongly questioned. Even after the events in Abu Dhabi, he immediately congratulated Max,” he told Auto Motor und Sport (AMuS).

“Lewis only wants one thing: fair competition on the track. We will deliver that.”

A combination of Hamilton and former team-mate Nico Rosberg took victory 51 of the 59 races between 2014 and 2016, as the pair engaged in three brutal battles for the world championship.

It was a fight that became so bitter and personal that their team principal was left tearing his hair out on many a weekend, but Wolff would not mind if both Hamilton and Russell were contesting race wins this year.

“I would wish that we had two lightning-fast drivers fighting for victory,” he affirmed.

READ: ‘I do feel that as disrespect’: Rosberg jovially responds to Hamilton best team-mate comment

“And if not, then we need these drivers to get our car back on the winning track.”

Russell has already raced once with Mercedes when he deputised for the ill Hamilton at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.

He twice looked set to record a victory having out-performed Bottas for much of the race, but was denied by a botched pit stop and a slow puncture.

The 2022 season kicks off on 20 March in Bahrain following two pre-season tests in Barcelona and Sakhir.

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