A tumultuous season has come to a close in Formula 1. It was a season that was dominated again by Mercedes AMG Petronas and it resulted in what seemed like an endless podium parade for the team.
All of the success that the team enjoyed this past season has also brought with it a dose of drama. This is in part because ground rules for the drivers were not laid out by Toto Wolff on the first day of his tenure as team boss and now he has a situation that he might not be able to rectify and, he may be without a job eventually as a result.
It’s been documented in the media that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are not the best of friends. They don’t need to be the best of friends in order to achieve the desired podium finishes in their respective race cars. They need to be able to work together when it’s needed. In fact, this season, the mind games between the two teammates would prove to cause some challenges for the team’s management.
Paddy Lowe is handling things okay the technical side for the most part. Ross Brawn laid the groundwork for what has become one of the most dominant power unit and chassis packages in Formula 1. It would be pretty hard to screw up and while building upon the car’s existing foundation. This could change in the near future as it’s becoming evident that the current Mercedes car is not far from its development ceiling. Yes, there is some room for development but it won’t be as much as Ferrari or the other teams.
Toto Wolff, on the other hand, is not handling the team and its issues properly. The mismanagement of the team’s drivers, their mind games, and Lewis Hamilton’s on and off track could cause the team to fall from its position in Formula 1’s penthouse earlier than expected.
One of the biggest mistakes was made at the very beginning of Toto’s tenure as team boss. The mistake was giving the drivers, especially Lewis Hamilton, too much freedom to do as he pleased. This freedom has led to on and off track issues which could result in long-term image issues for the Mercedes brand. The mistake has also led to people question the effectiveness of Mercedes current management team.
The current issues with Lewis, Nico, and the team should have been managed so that the distraction that was caused was kept to a minimum and didn’t affect the team’s performance.
A good leader would have dealt with Lewis and his on and off track behavior during the season as well as the cheeky digs and other questionable comments toward Nico the minute that it started because the effects of his behavior will eventually have negative effects on the team. Nico isn’t completely innocent either but his behavior will not end up affecting the team long term as much as Lewis’s behavior.
The tolerance of Lewis canceling his media and Mercedes obligations shouldn’t have been tolerated either. The short tone with the media wouldn’t have been tolerated either as it all has negative effects eventually on the team. He has a responsibility to Mercedes both on and off the track.
If Toto was a good leader, he would have been a disciplinarian from day one with a code of conduct in place for both drivers. He also would have been crystal clear as far as how things were going to be in different situations on and off track, what behavior would have not be tolerated, wouldn’t have allowed Lewis’s open commentary on race strategy, and absolutely demanded that his instructions be followed instead of putting up with Lewis’s diva behavior. Basically, a this is the way it’s going to be period stance.
By letting Lewis have the freedom to do as he wishes, Mercedes have created a situation where their driver is engaging in behavior that may harm Mercedes brand long term. I truly believe that Lewis and his behavior will, at some point soon, lead to Mercedes’ fall from Formula 1’s penthouse at some point.
Lewis is pulling a James Hunt even if it may be all for show and his “friends” are just leeches trying to help their careers. He has openly criticized Formula 1 drivers, both past and present, including Michael Schumacher who is recovering from a horrific skiing accident and cannot defend himself in any way. Lewis’s famous “friends” openly belittle and make fun of people with physical disabilities. It is appalling that a worldwide brand like Mercedes would tolerate this from one of their employees. There are pictures of Lewis and his mother drunk on social media which is not good for the Mercedes brand either. He’s becoming a lot like Fernando Alonso outside the car with his complaints, sound bits to the media, and other dramatic behavior as well as inside the car constantly questioning race strategy towards the end of the season.
Lewis is now saying that Nico complains but he also complains too. He also doesn’t handle losing graciously in the media and he is very quick to point fingers at the car set up, his engineers, etc. instead of himself.
I agree with Ron Dennis as far as Lewis’s lifestyle. Hopefully, Mercedes have plans in place to protect themselves if Lewis is seriously hurt or killed skydiving, skiing, etc. giving that he removed the dangerous sports clause from his contract. I believe that the incident where Lewis hit three parked cars in Monaco recently is a foreshadowing of a much more serious accident for Lewis in the future. I also think that Pascal Wehrlein is too immature at this point in his career to handle the pressure of being a full time driver in Formula 1 for Mercedes.
I understand why Mercedes is reluctant to make a change in their driver line up. Yes, Lewis wins races and championships but it’s like making a deal with the devil in order to achieve the desired success. I think that the team will end up paying dearly for that deal. It may not happen now but it will in the future. The writing is on the wall. If Lewis doesn’t get his way completely, he will make sure that the team slowly falls apart. The success will have a price and I believe that the bill for the success will come due very soon and Toto Wolff will take the fall because of the leadership mistakes that he made at the beginning of his tenure.