Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff’s relationship thrown into doubt: ‘Distanced himself'

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Netflix’s hit series ‘Drive to Survive’ is released tomorrow following the drama of the 2021 Formula 1 season. It is the fourth instalment of the documentary, and many fans will be eagerly awaiting its behind the scenes coverage of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s decider in the desert last December. Hamilton looked set to win a record eighth world title in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but controversy under the safety car allowed Verstappen to pit for fresh soft tyres and pass the Briton on the last lap to secure his first championship.

Hamilton was heard on team radio claiming the race had been “manipulated”, while Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was heard telling race director Michael Masi “this is not right”.

The furious reaction of Wolff contrasted with Hamilton’s silence in the weeks following the race, and former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve claimed this was an indication that the driver wanted to distance himself from his boss.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport in January, Villeneuve gave his analysis on Hamilton’s silence.

He said: “I interpret Hamilton’s silence as him wanting to put some distance between himself and Toto Wolff.

“You can lose with style, whereas Toto behaved like someone who is playing Monopoly.

“The moment he is losing, he throws the whole board into the air. In doing so, Wolff suffered a lot of image damage, in my opinion.

“Hamilton is sensitive to that because he is thinking about his future in America, maybe even in Hollywood.”

At the time, there was also speculation surrounding Hamilton’s future in the sport.

Villeneuve suggested that Hamilton may have struggled with the fact that he was facing stiff competition for the first time in years.

The Canadian added: “Lewis is also a bit more tired, he has had easy seasons after Nico Rosberg’s departure and he really won’t want to have another year like he experienced last season.

“He thought he could easily bring in the record eighth title and that didn’t happen.

“It’s like a diamond that you have in your hands and then suddenly it’s taken out of your hands.

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“In this way it hurt much more than if Verstappen would have simply led the whole race.”

The doubts around Hamilton’s future didn’t last long though, as in February he confirmed his plans to return to F1 for the upcoming season.

The Mercedes star said in one of the team’s promotional videos: “I never said I was going to stop. I love doing what I do.

“It was a difficult time for me, a time I needed to take a step back. I had my family around me and created great moments.

‘’Then I got to a point where I decided to go on the attack again and wanted to work with Toto and George [Russell]. It’s cool to see George come into the team with his energy.

“I feel that already within the team and look forward to the season.”

While F1 fans anticipate the new release of ‘Drive to Survive season four, one man who will not be watching is Wolff.

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He said this week that he “hates” the series because of the “narrative” it creates.

The Austrian said he is surprised at the freedom granted to the makers of the documentary around the sport, describing it as “scary”.

Wolff added: “It’s scary how much we let them in. You hate to see yourself in there.

“They create a spin to the narrative – they put scenes together that didn’t happen.

“I guess you’d say as an insider, ‘well that’s different than how it was.’

“But we’re creating entertainment, and that is a new dimension of entertainment.”



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