Lewis Hamilton‘s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists he is not motor racing’s ‘Special One’, despite being on the verge of leading his team to another world championship.
After Hamilton, 33, wrapped up the individual honours at the last round in Mexico a fortnight ago, Mercedes will become only the second team in Formula One history to win five consecutive constructors’ titles if Ferrari fail to outscore them by 13 points at Sunday’s penultimate round of the season in Brazil.
As team principal, Wolff, 46, has been a permanent fixture in Mercedes’ almost unprecedented run of success, while Hamilton has also flourished under the Austrian’s relaxed style of leadership.
Mercedes principal Toto Wolff has played down claims that he is Formula One’s ‘Special One’
Mercedes have won four constructors’ championships under Wolff and will soon make it five
In their pomp, McLaren and Red Bull both won four team titles on the trot, but only the combination of Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari boss Jean Todt claiming six on the spin will have won more in a row than the Silver Arrows.
Mercedes have not always possessed the fastest machinery this year, but, when under pressure, have cracked fewer times than their rivals in red.
Quite rightly, Hamilton, in probably his finest campaign, has taken the plaudits, but does Wolff feel he is worthy of the same acclaim?
‘The downfall of any leader in a sport’s team is when they get carried away with their own ego,’ Wolff told Press Association Sport.
‘You have seen in football that if you start to think you are the “Special One”, or that you are better than the others, that is the moment when you will be beaten.
‘Humility is a super-important factor in all of our lives, and I try to remind myself that every evening in front of the mirror.’
Unlike the heavy constraints placed on Hamilton at McLaren, Wolff has afforded his star driver free reign.
The Austrian’s relaxed management has also got the best out of star driver Lewis Hamilton
The Englishman has thrived under Wolff’s leadership, winning four world titles in five years
And although he revealed the path has not always been smooth, especially at the beginning, he believes his decision has been vindicated.
Wolff pointed to September’s Singapore Grand Prix, a season-defining race, where Hamilton produced what he described as a ‘magic’ lap in qualifying to take pole and the win after flying 25,000 miles around the globe to launch his Tommy Hilfiger fashion collection.
‘At the start it was very difficult,’ Wolff added. ‘Some of my marketing colleagues couldn’t comprehend that Lewis was being photographed with his Ferrari in Los Angeles, or that he was wearing different brands to ones that sponsored Mercedes.
‘For me, it always came down to the performance level on track, and as long as he did that, he can lead the life he wants to live.
‘When he flies around the world, or when he works on his music, I know that it is best for the team because it makes him perform well.
Wolff has had no issue letting Hamilton enjoy his celebrity lifestyle outside of Formula One
‘Some drivers are into meditation, but Lewis follows his hobbies to take his mind off racing, which releases the stress, and increases his level of happiness.
‘The best example of that was Singapore. He flew to Shanghai to launch his fashion collection, then to New York for an evening with Tommy Hilfiger, before he went back to Europe for a friend’s wedding, and rocked up at the race.
‘In the past, people would say “how can you allow that?” And that question was certainly being asked before the race, but then bang, he was six tenths faster than Sebastian (Vettel) in qualifying, and he controlled the race from there.’
Hamilton, sporting a fifth star on his revised crash helmet this weekend to honour his latest title triumph, finished third in opening practice, behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Vettel.