Toto Wolff compares Lewis Hamilton to Olympic legend as Mercedes contract talks continue
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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has compared Sir Lewis Hamilton to another British sporting great, Olympic sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie. Wolff joined Mercedes in 2013 as managing partner and is now the team principal and CEO of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.
The Austrian has guided Mercedes to seven consecutive Constructors’ Championships, with Hamilton winning six of those and his former team-mate Nico Rosberg claiming the other.
In recent times Wolff has also been helping Ainslie in his bid to end a British team’s 170-year wait to win an America’s Cup in sailing.
Ainslie is the most successful Olympic sailor in history, with four golds and one silver medal, and is now the team principal at Ineos Team UK.
The two men started working together after being introduced by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, who is the co-owner of petrochemicals company Ineos, which bankrolls the sailing team and also owns a 33 per cent stake in the Mercedes F1 team.
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This isn’t the first time Ainslie has looked to utilise an F1 team’s knowledge though, having spoken to Adrian Newey, Red Bull’s chief technical officer, in 2017.
And Wolff, who has wider responsibilities outside of F1 as head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, believes there are comparisons between Hamilton and Ainslie.
“I don’t even know how to describe it, but I’ve got to know Lewis very, very closely and Ben we’ve only seen each other on a few occasions,” Wolff explained, as part of an interview involving the pair in The Telegraph, “but you can spot that steely look straight away. Two men on a mission.”
Ratcliffe is one of the wealthiest men in Britain and has involvement in a host of sports, alongside F1 and sailing.
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In 2019 he took over the hugely successful Team Sky cycling team, which is now the Ineos Grenadiers, and in the same year bought French football club Nice, having already taken over Swiss side FC Lausanne-Sport a couple of years earlier.
It is Ratcliffe’s goal to use the expertise from his different businesses to help the others succeed.
And both Ainslie and Wolff are hopeful the link-ups will help take their respective teams to the next level.
“That is the master plan and the vision that Jim had,” Wolff said.
“We see already learnings not only between sailing and Formula One racing, but with cycling as well.
“Dave Brailsford (long-time boss at Team Sky and now Ineos Grenadiers) is a really good sparring partner of mine. We went on a fishing trip to Iceland and ended up lying in the wet grass with our fishing gear and discussing the personalities of the top athletes.
“So we started to cross-nurture each other. I believe in a few years this could be a really powerful group of sports teams.”
One of the main items on Wolff’s agenda at the moment is the contract negotiations with Hamilton.
The 36-year-old shares the record for the most Drivers’ Championship wins, alongside Michael Schumacher, but is technically without a contract for the new season at present.
With Mercedes the dominant force in F1 and Hamilton keen to become the most successful driver in F1 history outright, he is expected to remain with the team for the 2021 campaign.
And Wolff acknowledged he is not concerned at the delay to tie down Hamilton when speaking last week.
“It doesn’t worry me at all, because I will always respect Lewis’s decisions,” he told Autosport.com.
“Whether this is staying with us for a long time, or whether that means leaving the sport and pursuing different interests. I think we need to be ready for all kinds of curveballs being thrown at us.
“But at the same time, we talk a lot, and we are very transparent with each other. I think there is more to achieve together.”
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