Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton’s record-equalling ninety-first career victory is an ‘incredible’ achievement, with the Briton now equalling the number of wins set by Michael Schumacher after taking the chequered flag first at the Nürburgring on Sunday.
Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport and the Team Principal of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, says he remembered watching Schumacher’s career and winning all those races in the 1990’s and 2000’s. His victories came with the Benetton F1 Team between 1992 and 1995, with the rest of his wins coming between 1996 and 2006 with Scuderia Ferrari.
Schumacher also raced for Mercedes between 2010 and 2012, although his return to the sport after a three-year hiatus saw him take only one podium finish and one pole position.
“Congratulations to Lewis on the victory today and for equalling Michael’s record for most F1 wins,” said Wolff. “It’s an incredible moment. I remember watching F1 when Ferrari were winning every single Championship.
“Now our team have been able to catch them up and seeing Lewis equalise Michael’s winning record, it’s much more emotional than I thought it would be. An amazing thing to witness and a fantastic drive by Lewis today.”
Whereas Hamilton was racing to victory, there was disappointment on the other side of the garage as Valtteri Bottas suffered his first retirement of the season, and his second non-score after missing out on points in the British Grand Prix in July.
It was a rare failure for the Mercedes-Benz power unit, and Wolff says they will analyse just what went wrong inside the Finn’s engine and caused the retirement that ruled him out of the fight for the race victory.
“It was a challenging race with very tricky, cool conditions,” said Wolff. “Valtteri and Lewis had a brilliant battle on the first lap, they raced each other hard but knew where the boundaries were.
“Valtteri went full rally style, keeping his foot on the throttle and maintained position. The pace of Valtteri’s opening few laps were incredible and it was such a shame he suffered the lock-up and then had the Power Unit issue. Otherwise, he would have been in the fight for victory, for sure.
“We still need to analyse what caused his retirement, because we don’t yet know the real cause. Everyone at Brixworth on the Power Unit side are pushing the boundaries all of the time and that’s why these things can sometimes happen.
“Of course, disappointing for Valtteri but we know how resilient he is, so I’m sure he’ll bounce back.”
“It’s incredible that he’s equalled Michael’s colossal tally of race wins” – Andrew Shovlin
Andrew Shovlin, the Trackside Engineer Director at Mercedes, was equally impressed by Hamilton’s record-matching victory, particularly with Schumacher having had many good friends within the team following his three-year stint with them.
“Another really impressive win from Lewis and it’s incredible that he’s equalled Michael’s colossal tally of race wins,” said Shovlin. “Michael has many good friends within the team, and it was very moving to see Mick and the family mark the occasion by giving Lewis one of Michael’s helmets.”
Shovlin was disappointed with the ‘tough’ day Bottas had on the other side of the garage, with all his misfortune seemingly happening within a few laps of each other. The Finn is now sixty-nine points behind Hamilton in the standings with six races to go.
Hamilton’s race, on the other hand, was more straight-forward, and the late safety car gave the team the perfect chance to pit the race leader again to prevent any kind of attack from behind from Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
“Valtteri on the other hand had a tough day,” said Shovlin. “It was going well for him, but all his bad luck seemed to come within a few laps. He’d struggled a bit with the front end when we had some spots of rain, which triggered a lock up that meant he had to box for a new set.
“He then lost race time to Lewis and Max, because they benefited from a faster stop under the VSC, and then on the restart he was losing power and we couldn’t recover the situation. So, we retired the car. We’re still looking into the problem, but the early indications are that it’s an electronic issue rather than a hardware issue.
“Lewis’s day was more straightforward. He did a good job of preserving the tyres in the first stint and was starting to make good time on Max later in the stint, but ultimately both got pulled in by the VSC.
“He had everything under control in the second stint. We had the gap to just shadow what Red Bull were doing but the Safety Car came out, which made the decision to convert to a two-stop very easy.”
Shovlin was pleased the W11 worked well in the cold conditions at the Nürburgring, although he acknowledges Red Bull are continuing to make gains that should make for a thrilling end to the campaign.
“Overall, it’s been pleasing to see car work well in the cold conditions but as we’ve seen in other years, Red Bull are developing well and it’s looking like it will be pretty tight in the remaining races,” said Shovlin. “However, retiring a car from a race is not our normal standard and it’s especially tough for Valtteri, who had good prospects after such a strong pole position yesterday.
“We’ll work hard to get on top of that issue and look forward to the challenge of another new track in Portugal.”