Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Yas Marina, 2016

Hamilton’s 2016 title defeat only “annoyed” him, didn’t change him – Wolff

2020 Turkish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton’s relentless pursuit of self-improvement is what sets him apart from other drivers, his Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said.

This weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix could see Hamilton equal the all-time record for most world championships won by a Formula 1 driver. He is poised to match Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles.

It would be Hamilton’s sixth championship from the last seven years. He narrowly missed out on winning the 2016 crown when team mate Nico Rosberg beat him by five points, and then retired.

Wolff doesn’t believe that defeat made a significant difference to Hamilton’s approach to racing. “I don’t think that played any role,” he said.

“I think that annoyed him back at the time and he just moved on. I don’t think there was a particular thing to learn in that year. Nico was strong, Lewis had some DNFs leading races and at the end, it is what it is.”

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Hamilton’s great strength comes from his constant self-examination and pursuit of improvement, said Wolff.

Toto Wolff, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Imola, 2020
Hamilton ‘constantly seeks perfection’, says Wolff
“What I see or what I realised over the last years is his permanent self-analysis, how to get better, he’s become really good in identifying points of weaknesses and then tackling them. And he has progressed over the years as a racing driver in the car and as a personality outside of the car.

“That is something that you see very rarely with people that are critical enough whilst not beating themselves up in order to progress. Many others in Formula 1, or outside of Formula 1, you’re pretty stubborn, you’re not really good at identifying your own shortcomings and therefore you stagnate in your development. And it’s a thinking pattern that with him simply doesn’t exist is that is the constant seek for perfection.”

However Wolff is reluctant to draw comparisons between Hamilton and other highly successful sportspeople inside and outside of motor racing.

“In any sport and also in motor racing, there were people that stood out. In motor racing, it was Fangio, it was Senna, Michael of course, Sebastian [Vettel] in the 2010s and now Lewis. And I don’t think you can compare them really, because every time had different competitors and needed different skill sets.

“But certainly amongst them, his sheer record stands out and he’s on a par with Michael today who for me, personally, was the greatest driver in Formula 1. Lewis is still in his career and he can maybe achieve more in terms of the sheer record.

“In other sports this the same case, there is some very outstanding people that have really stood out. Roger for me is not only an amazing tennis player but he’s also a great personality. And within that generation you will have Roger and you will have Nadal and maybe that’s pretty much it, I think.

“You will have the same in golf and in soccer and in American football. You have these outstanding guys that have just natural ability, social intelligence and hard working skills.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 30 comments on “Hamilton’s 2016 title defeat only “annoyed” him, didn’t change him – Wolff”

    1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
      13th November 2020, 12:45

      And yet, Lewis emerged from his title defeat as a significantly better, more consistent, less complacent driver.

      2017-spec Lewis would never have lost the championship to Nico.

      2016-spec Lewis might not have prevailed against Seb in 2017.

      1. Nonsense, he is the same driver, he had more wins than Rosberg in 14, 15 AND 16.

        1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
          13th November 2020, 14:25

          Technically correct, but a bit over-simplistic, no?

          2014: Lewis had 11 wins, Nico had 5.

          2015: Lewis had 10 wins, Nico had 6.

          2016: Lewis had 10 wins, Nico had 9.

          Lewis was in the process of wiping the floor with Nico in 2015, then seemingly switched off after clinching the championship, allowing Nico to win the final three races. This enabled Nico to build momentum for 2016. Come 2016, Nico had momentum, he had raised his game, and Lewis encountered some highly publicized mechanical gremlins over the season, but – and it’s a big “but” – at the start of the season, Nico also caught Lewis napping, which becomes obvious when we look at their starts in the first two races of that season. Nico nailed the starts, Lewis didn’t. Could Nico have won the championship if it hadn’t been for Lewis’ reliability issues? No. But it is equally true that he couldn’t have won if Lewis had been on it from day one.

          Six races into 2016, Lewis only had a single win that season. That has never happened again since, which speaks for itself. Also: Notice how, post-2016, Lewis has never again allowed himself to switch off after clinching a championship? Obviously he is still the same driver, but my point stands. He is a more consistent, less complacent version of that driver.

          1. , but my point stands. He is a more consistent, less complacent version of that driver.

            But your point doesn’t stand b- except it’s standing on thin air.

            All you have shown is that whilst Nico won more races in 2016 than he would otherwise not have won, if not for engine issues on Lewis’s side.

            And despite your 6 races in statistics,, Lewis still had more wins at the end of the year – DESPITE being unable to take part in 3 qualifying sessions and starting from the back of the grid 4 times.

            If anything, Lewis’s performance in 2016 was absolutely legendary.

            People always like to claim that Lewis learnt from people like Button and Rosberg after his defeats to them, when there is absolutely no evidence for such a nonsensical claim.

            Interestingly, you never hear that they learnt anything from him.

            His improvements comes from his own burning commitment to always aim higher and be better – no matter what, rather than being ascribed to any defeat to anyone.

            1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
              13th November 2020, 15:31

              People always like to claim that Lewis learnt from people like Button and Rosberg after his defeats to them, […] His improvements comes from his own burning commitment to always aim higher and be better

              Why not both, though? Is it unfathomable that losing a championship to an inferior driver might have caused Lewis to take a harder look at his own weak points than he might otherwise have at that point in time? I’m sure he would have improved regardless, but at the same pace? I don’t think so.

              Interestingly, you never hear that they learnt anything from him.

              I’m sure that both Jenson and Nico probably learned loads from Lewis. Particularly Nico. Hence why he was able to raise his game in 2016 – which he did, although he still wasn’t quite at Lewis’ level.

            2. if anything, Lewis’s performance in 2016 was absolutely legendary.

              yep, and ROS was simply better and won that year..
              \NEXT..

            3. Yes, the Mexican cross-country drive is a legend.

          2. Hamilton was still wiping the floor with Rosberg when they both had a working car. The thin was that Hamilton didn’t have a properly working car for at least half of Rosberg’s wins. With Hamilton starting from the pitlane, from P10 or watching the race from the grass besides the track.

            1. I think you both have a point, hamilton was certainly better than rosberg in 2016 but he certainly could’ve had a better season; I think he drove good enough and don’t blame him for losing 2016, but I also think he improved later on, especially in 2018, ironically when better became worse hamilton became better, more consistent.

        2. I agree he’s the same. He and Mercedes made a lot of mistakes at the start of 2017 as well which kept the championship closer than it should have been. Mercedes were a cut above Ferrari. Mercedes had 12 wins to Ferrari’s 5.

          It was only close in 2017 because in Melbourne Mercedes got caught out with Ferrari going for an overcut (Merc was the quicker car and should have won), in Bahrain the Mercedes was quickest but Hamilton got too clever trying to hold up Ricciardo going into the pits and was penalised, in Russia Bottas won with Hamilton finishing (Hamiton just had a poor day), Hamilton qualified 14th at Monaco, in Austria Bottas won while Hamilton finished 4th.

          So you see in the first half of 2017 Hamilton wasn’t driving well. Bottas who had never really set the world on fire at Williams had come into Mercedes which was built around Hamilton and was immediately taking wins off him.

          1. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
            13th November 2020, 19:48

            Okay, so let’s break down the 2017 season, race by race:

            Australia: Mercedes made a strategic error (or Ferrari lucked into a rare strategic masterstroke, one or the other), thereby allowing Vettel’s overcut to work. Not Hamilton’s fault.

            China: Hamilton won.

            Bahrain: In race trim, Vettel’s Ferrari was faster than Hamilton’s Mercedes on merit. Not much Hamilton could do about that. Sometimes, that happens.

            Russia: Hamilton had a mediocre day at the office. So yeah, his fault.

            Spain: Hamilton won.

            Monaco: Bad qualifying session for Hamilton, but also compounded by Vandoorne’s Q2 crash, which didn’t allow Hamilton to complete his final flying lap. He did okay in the race, all things considered.

            Canada: Hamilton won.

            Azerbaijan: Hamilton should have won – and would have if his headrest hadn’t come loose. Bad luck, but hardly his fault.

            Austria: Slightly “meh” qualifying session for Hamilton, but still, less than two tenths behind Bottas on pole. Hamilton was then moved back to P8 on the grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change. All things considered, he did well to finish fourth.

            Britain: Hamilton won.

            Hungary: Hamilton got stuck behind the Ferraris on a track which is notoriously difficult to overtake on. Switched positions with Bottas to attempt to challenge the Ferraris. When that failed, the positions were switched back. Fair play.

            Belgium: Hamilton won.

            Italy: Hamilton won.

            Singapore: Vettel cracked under pressure. Hamilton capitalized.

            Malaysia: Verstappen’s Red Bull was faster in race trim. Hamilton knew Verstappen wasn’t a threat in the championship and didn’t put up much of a fight. Smart move.

            Japan: Hamilton won.

            USA: Hamilton won.

            Mexico: Hamilton was barged into by Vettel, got damage, and did well to climb back up to ninth, which was also enough for him to clinch the title.

            Brazil: Okay, fine. So in 2017, Hamilton switched off a little bit after clinching the title. I stand corrected. Made an error in qualifying, crashed, had to start from the pitlane, but did well to finish fourth, behind only the two Ferraris and his own teammate.

            Abu Dhabi: Bottas appeared to be having a good day. Could Hamilton have beaten him if he had tried harder? Maybe. We’ll never know. See above re. switching off. (However, this time, unlike in 2016, Hamilton’s switching off didn’t allow his main championship rival to win all of the last three races.)

            So, we have a couple of “meh” qualifying sessions, one or two “meh” races, and a bit of bad luck. That’s still a remarkable level of consistency. Better than what he managed the year before. Almost as if he had made a deliberate effort to improve, and had managed to do so.

            1. Early in the year China and Spain showed the outright speed advantage of the Mercedes when they are their drivers were error or incident free.

              Bahrain, the Mercedes was clearly quicker in qualifying (front row lockout), Hamilton started second on the grid behind his teammate, but had a poor start and was third after the first corner. Then in the race while closing in on Vettel, Hamilton got a penalty for deliberately holding up Ricciardo going into the pits. The key in that race is Hamilton’s poor start and blunder going into the pits. Both were Hamilton’s fault.

              I like how you highlight Vettel “cracking” under pressure in Singapore 2017 (when it wasn’t even his fault), but all the times Hamilton has a poor qualifying session it’s chalked up as “meh”.

            2. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
              14th November 2020, 11:57

              Re. Bahrain, I refer you to this article: In short, Hamilton’s penalty didn’t make a difference to the outcome of the race. His start didn’t help him, but another questionable strategy call by Mercedes is what ultimately cost him a chance at the win.

              I like how you highlight Vettel “cracking” under pressure in Singapore 2017 (when it wasn’t even his fault)

              Vettel steered into the path of Verstappen, thereby triggering the accident. He might have gotten away with it if Räikkönen hadn’t also been there, but still, it was rash. Bad luck, but also rash. In one fell swoop, Vettel took out himself, his teammate, another driver, and paved the way for his main title rival to win the race. In my book, that’s worse than a couple of slightly sub-par qualifying sessions. Hence why the former qualifies as “cracking under pressure,” while the latter is simply “meh.”

            3. AllTheCoolNamesWereTaken
              14th November 2020, 11:59

              Okay, link was omitted for some reason. I meant to link to an article from this site titled “Why Hamilton’s penalty didn’t cost him a Bahrain win.”

      2. Firstly, I hope no-one brings up Malaysia 2016. Hamilton’s had one mechanical retirement since Malaysia 2016.

        Rosberg couldn’t even capitalise at Sepang he spun and received a penalty. Only cost Hamilton 15 points.

        If a DNF is the difference between Hamilton winning and not winning a championship against Rosberg in equal equipment then I don’t think he really deserves to be considered the best driver on the grid in 2016.

        Anyway, the mechanical retirement cancels out Rosberg being taken out by Hamilton in Spain. Hamilton was at fault, lost control of his car, very lucky to wipe Rosberg out at the same time otherwise Rosberg gets 25 points to Hamilton’s nil.

        Secondly, Rosberg won the first four races of the year and had 9 race wins to 6 with four races left in the season. All he had to do was bring the home in second place for the remaining races which is what he did. There was no reason to take any unnecessary risks against Hamilton who had nothing to lose (as evidenced by how he drove erratically in Abu Dhabi).

        Finally, Hamilton lost the championship in 2016 because:

        In Australia he started on pole but was 6th by the end of the first lap. Bad start was Hamilton’s fault.

        Bahrain started on pole but Rosberg beat him to the first corner. Got tapped by Bottas but really Hamilton could have given Bottas room. Wasn’t necessary to squeeze a car you’re much faster than on the first corner. Hamilton blew the start.

        China, Hamilton couldn’t qualify and had to start at the back, but a podium was easily achievable. Instead, Hamilton spent the race on the radio complaining and brought the car home in 8th. Didn’t get the maximum from the car. I remember Brundle in commentary believing it was a poor effort by Hamilton.

        In Spain he made an error and spun into Rosberg. Very lucky to take Rosberg out, and lucky to not be penalised too.

        At Monaco Rosberg moved over for Hamilton when the team ordered him to despite being in a title fight. Was for position. Rosberg was struggling with his car. I guarantee Hamilton would not have done the same for Rosberg and in fact didn’t in Hungary 2014.

        Italy, Hamilton cooked the start. Started on pole was 6th by the time he went through the chicane.

        Singapore, Hamilton qualified third finished third. Rosberg got pole, won the race. Rosberg just too good.

        Japan, Hamilton cooked the start. Started second behind Rosberg, but was about 8th or 9th by the first corner.

        1. The Dnf was the straw that broke the camel’s back. With all the other technical issues with the clutch, was it him or was it the clutch is anyone’s guess but it was a new clutch setup that year and I believe it did impact both drivers more so Hamilton. Not to mention mechanical issues.

          Not saying Hamilton drove perfectly he did have off races.

          Still to lose by 5 points isn’t bad and still took it to the wire, deserves some credit.

          Plus reference Spain, Rosberg moved late to defend Hamilton’s attempt, Hamilton tried to avoid contact, went on the grass and crashed them both out. End result both at fault, to say it was either ones fault is senseless. Very similar I would say to Riccardo and Verstappen crashing each other out in Baku.

          1. Except Verstappen changed line close to the braking zone. Ricciardo was too aggressive with the pass especially going into a tight 90 turn on a street track. Both drivers at fault but more so Ricciardo.

            Whereas Rosberg kept continually moving to the inside line in the normal course of defending the track. It wasn’t anywhere near the braking zone. Hamilton could have gone to the outside and easily passed Rosberg but made an error over-committing to the inside as if Rosberg wasn’t closing the gap for whatever reason.

            100% Hamilton’s fault.

            Instead of blaming the DNF which happens (once in four years if you’re Hamilton), blame the terrible start at Suzuka he lost the race in the first 100m, the terrible start in Melbourne, the terrible start at Monza lost the race by the first corner. Change those things he wins the championship.

            1. Complete revisionist tripe Darren

              I have no idea what 2016 you saw but while you happily point out the anomaly that LH has had few retirements since which says volumes in itself. You omit the fact that he had three Q2-3 retirements thus back or middle of the grid starts and twice had to start at the back. All in a year. Yet nothing since as you say. That would be enough to make anyone paranoid.

              LH got to within five points of winning an did win in every metric bar those points.

              Nico actually had his worse season – the most driving penalty points of anyone on the grid. Yet won.

              Because of the unreliability you point out had not happened prior or since…

            2. Oh and Rosberg was moving to the outside line just for clarity.

              With a 160hp shortfall…

        2. very lucky to wipe Rosberg out

          Predatory skills, not luck

      3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        14th November 2020, 8:08

        I have to somewhat disagree with Toto. Rosberg in ’16 was the very best he could be, going to extreme lengths to eke out thousanths of a second. He had his gloves redesigned to aid clutch feel, completely changed his sleeping habits to minimise jet lag and fatigue and many other little things that added up to being truly competitive against Lewis. Now don’t get me wrong, Nico’s very best year of his career would still not have been enough to beat Lewis if the reliability issues were equal but it would have been the closest he ever got, which it was. As testament to that, Nico retired believing he had reached his absolute peak and recognising the sacrifices he made were unsustainable. In other words, he himself believed he couldn’t do it again. Post season interview with Lewis shows he was really annoyed to have been beaten by Nico. Quote “It’s taken him 18 years” (to beat me) Add that to last laps team radio in Abu Dhabi “I’m losing a championship right now so I don’t really care” I am absolutely convinced that while congratulating Nico on his title in Abu Dhabi, Lewis was thinking “I’m going to destroy you next season!” He said he wasn’t surprised Nico retired. Those guys know each other really well. From the moment the checkered flag fell in Abu Dhabi Lewis was a better driver. He was motivated more than any other time in his career, not even Alonso got Lewis this motivated.
        Over the course of 2016 Lewis realised there are some things that are out of his control and that he had to be more dominant in case of those things. He realised after adopting Nico’s glove design and working on starts that he didn’t have the complete 360. It woke him up to an extent. Lewis never viewed Nico as true competition due to their history. Nico had never beaten him over a season. Then because of circumstances he finally did.
        What I agree with Toto on is it didn’t change Lewis. He has since Jenson was his team mate adapted and improved and has continued that mindset into Merc to date. Lewis didn’t change after Nico. He just did what he was already doing better. What 2016 did was highlight areas he hadn’t considered and Nico did, and to make sure he always had a margin in case of bad luck. He was going to destroy Nico in 17. Instead it was Seb.

        1. That theory doesn’t really hold since Hamilton wasn’t that strong at the start of 2017.

          Bottas who had just came into the team was matching him, winning races (much like Rosberg did, Button did).

          1. Hmm I suspect I know who you are?

            Or have been in about four other guises…

            Give it up.

          2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            17th November 2020, 12:50

            2017 Lewis’s first 5 races 2,1,2,4,1. Vettel won 2 of the first 5, Bottas won 1. How is that “not that strong” What’s the standard?

            1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
              17th November 2020, 12:54

              Forgot to add, Bottas first 5 races 3,6,3,1,ret.

    2. Bah, meant when vettel became worse.

    3. It is nonsensical to claim Lewis showed a lack of consistency im 2016 because Rosberg won the first 4 races, when the same claim isn’t made for Rosberg who lost the last 4 races.

      It is even more nonsensical to expect Hamilton to have a perfect year in order to win the championship, when Rosberg made more mistakes that year, and still won.

      Rosberg’s performance in 2016 was so atrocious that he was voted 3rd best driver by in the team principal’s poll, and Autosport had him as low as 5th in their driver rankings.

      The Hamilton haters always show their subliminal bias by holding him to a standard other drivers are not held to. Basically, if Hamilton isn’t perfect, then he deserves to lose a championship. Never mind that Rosberg wasn’t perfect either, or the myriad of engine issues Lewis suffered.

      For them, the fact that he lost is simply the perfect stick to beat him with. Dunning-kruger at its best.

    4. It is nonsensical to claim Lewis showed a lack of consistency im 2016 because Rosberg won the first 4 races, when the same claim isn’t made for Rosberg who lost the last 4 races.

      It is even more nonsensical to expect Hamilton to have a perfect year in order to win the championship, when Rosberg made more mistakes that year, and still won.

      Rosberg’s performance in 2016 was so atrocious that he was voted 3rd best driver by in the team principal’s poll, and Autosport had him as low as 5th in their driver rankings.

      The Hamilton detractors always show their subliminal bias by holding him to a standard other drivers are not held to. Basically, if Hamilton isn’t perfect, then he deserves to lose a championship. Never mind that Rosberg wasn’t perfect either, or the myriad of engine issues Lewis suffered.

      For them, the fact that he lost is simply the perfect stick to beat him with.

    5. the new rules delay makes up for it. Also not like 2014 was not engineered for him, same way 2016 was wolff throwing a bone to Nico.

    6. Malaysia ’16 was still a clear sabotage to this day.

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