Lewis Hamilton defended by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

Hamilton had a poor start in the last race before the summer shutdown, struggling to get off the grid and then overdoing his attempts to fight his way back through the field. The championship leader ended up finishing the Hungary Grand prix in sixth place despite starting from pole position.

“In the previous nine races Lewis did not commit mistakes, but it can happen,” Wolff pointed out. “He apologised, and besides it was just a bad day. If it happens to us, hardly anyone notices it, but for a sportsman is different because it affects the outcome.”

The Mercedes team boss also played down comments that Hamilton’s high-living over the summer holidays might be distracting the driver from the job in hand. “In these weeks of vacation, everyone has the right to be left alone. Lewis is a veteran and knows what he can and what he cannot do.”

Talking with the Italian sports publication Gazzetta dello Sport, Wolff said that several reasons had been behind the poor starts of both Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg in Budapest and that it wasn’t down to one single factor.

One contributory cause was the fact that the field spent longer on the grid than expected, after the first attempt to get the race underway was aborted becauseFelipe Massa’s Williams was out of position on the grid.

“Yes, with the start aborted, [the clutch] overheated,” Wolff confirmed, adding that he was confident the glitches in Hungary did not mean that the team would struggle with revised starting procedures due to come in at the next race in Spa-Francorchamps next weekend.

“No, because our team is able to react very quickly to changing regulations,” he insisted. “I agree that it is right that the start is totally back in the hands of the drivers. At least that way we won’t keep being told that a good start is about the driver and a bad one is the fault of a computer program!”

While Wolff would have preferred to head into the summer holidays with another win under the team’s belt, he was quick to play down typically outspoken comments from Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda last month, who had been quoted in the media as saying that Ferrari was too busy “mucking around with spaghetti” to improve their car sufficiently to challenge Mercedes’ dominance in 2015.

“Well it is fun and part of the show,” said Wolff, insisting that Lauda’s words had come across sharper than the former world champion had intended and that Mercedes had meant to offence to Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne and team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. Moreover, Hungary had certainly shaken even the slightest sense of complacency at Mercedes that this year’s titles are a foregone conclusion.

“As demonstrated in Budapest, just one mistake in a race and everything is wide open,” he said. “The possibility of losing this title are low but you have to be aware that what can happen and therefore it is good to keep your feet planted on the ground.

“We’ll have to be good at balancing the development of this machine with the need to work already in the project in 2016. For now we are still 100 per cent focused on the present, on the other hand Vettel is just 42 points from Hamilton.

Wolff also commented that he saw no reason for Valtteri Bottas to leave Williams for Ferrari, and that he was torn by the idea of supplying Mercedes engines to rival team Red Bull in the future. Wolff has also recently lent his support to those urging Formula One to retain venues with a historic connection to the sport on the calendar beyond 2016, such as Monza.

  • ‘No reason’ for Bottas to leave Williams – Wolff
  • Mercedes torn over Red Bull engine deal
  • Wolff wants iconic F1 venues retained

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