Toto Wolff says winning home race will give title-chasing Lewis Hamilton 'big boost'
Team chief reckons Briton was already over qualy blow by race
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 07/07/14 1:23pm
Lewis Hamilton’s first home victory for six years will give the British driver a “big boost” in his title duel with Nico Rosberg, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has predicted.
From the despair of Saturday, and the critical press headlines which followed his costly qualifying miscalcuation, when Hamilton appeared to have thrown away his chances of triumphing on home soil, the 29-year-old was the toast of British sport 24 hours later with a fifth win of the season but, crucially, his first in two months.
Taking full advantage of Rosberg’s first retirement of 2014, Hamilton’s 27th career success cut his team-mate’s championship advantage to four points heading to the Germany-Hungary double header which takes the sport into the summer break.
Wolff, Mercedes’ joint team boss, acknowledged the extra impetus that a win in Britain would give Hamilton – although, in contrast to some of the depictions of his driver’s mood ahead, the Austrian revealed his driver had already bounced back from Saturday’s disappointments by race-day morning.
“Winning at home gives you always a big boost,” Wolff told reporters. “But I can tell you in the briefing [on Sunday morning] he came in in good spirits, he was very focused, very concentrated in a way that was really impressive.
“We have seen the momentum swing to one side and then momentum swing to the other side and I guess they’re on a pretty equal level this season and it’s going to last until the last race of the season.”
Although some had suggested after qualifying that Hamilton’s recent run of errors had shown he was beginning to feel the strain of his tense title duel with Rosberg, Wolff insisted that the former World Champion was mentally stronger than critics gave him credit for.
The Austrian pointed to the Briton’s measured reaction to his latest slow pitstop in Sunday’s race as an example of how he had his emotions under control.
“Different to what the perception is, he’s mentally very strong and he could cope well with having had problems,” Wolff insisted.
“One of the examples is we had another pitstop that wasn’t perfect on the left rear. The first thing he did, he came on the radio and said, ‘Guys don’t worry, let’s make the next one better’. You can see the momentum in the team, it’s a not a blaming culture in it, it’s about trying to improve all together.
“So he would have moved himself out that low anyway, but winning at home, winning in front of such a crowd, bouncing [back] in the way he did today, that’s normal. It’s going to give him a big boost.”
The one lingering question after Sunday’s events, however, was who would have won out between the Mercedes pair had Rosberg not been forced out at half-distance with a gearbox failure.
Hamilton had closed to within 2.8 seconds of the sister W05 after making his way through the field from sixth on the grid before being switched onto what is termed the ‘offset’ – essentially a reverse tyre strategy to Rosberg, who was on mediums - on lap 24.
Wolff admitted he couldn’t know for sure how the race would have panned out had both cars kept running without problems, but that it would have been close into the final stint.
“At the beginning of the race Nico was having a really solid pace. The offset strategy of putting Lewis on the prime [tyres] – would it have changed something, I don’t know,” Wolff added.
“When Nico retired he was in the lead. The offset strategy of letting him run in the middle [stint] with the prime, they would have been together at the end of the race the last ten laps. So this is what we were expecting – or fearing!”
With Rosberg out anyway on lap 29, Hamilton had an unchallenged run to the chequered flag. Indeed, such was Mercedes’ advantage over the field that Wolff revealed the Briton’s later second pitstop was only precautionary.
“The whole stop was a safety option,” he explained. “We could have gone to the end. If you see [Daniel] Ricciardo, he did more than 30 laps on that [hard] tyre. I think many teams were caught by surprised how long the tyres lasted. I guess we could have pushed it to a one-stop strategy like we’ve seen with other teams.”