Behind the tears, Hamilton and Wolff continue – separately

Behind the tears, Hamilton and Wolff continue – separately

Make no mistake, Mercedes is back in Formula 1.

It took a while for McLaren to truly believe it could be a contender at any venue when it started to find performance last year, and the Miami upgrade this season cemented its place at the top. But there have still been times when Red Bull’s raw pace has been unlocked and proved out of reach for periods of racing.

But now it’s not just McLaren that is putting itself in a position to win races and deliver performances that could cause problems for Red Bull. Mercedes was clearly quick enough in Canada, solid but unspectacular in Spain and Austria, and had the fastest car for large parts of the Silverstone weekend.

When it’s this close, the form book is always going to fluctuate. It even happened during Sunday’s race, when the Mercedes looked comfortably fastest at one point, then it was the McLaren in changing conditions, and then suddenly Max Verstappen was doing the hard tyre work and climbing back into contention.

Yet it was classic Lewis Hamilton who secured victory. He timed his final pit stop perfectly, switched to a soft tyre that would give him the best chance of victory and then held on for much longer than the McLaren of Lando Norris who tried to pass him.

Remember, McLaren has been the best in terms of tyre usage in recent races, but Hamilton has always had that talent. He has just rarely had the chance to show it since late 2021.

A record ninth victory at Silverstone – breaking a tie with Michael Schumacher’s eight at Magny-Cours – extends his total record of 104 race wins and sets a new record for the largest gap between first and last victories. With Sunday’s performance, you’d be brave to suggest he won’t push those milestones even further.

While it was most striking how much it meant to Hamilton when he burst into tears on team radio afterwards and emotionally hugged his family in parc fermé – and even took them to the post-race fan podium – there was another reaction that was just as striking. And that was from his team boss, Toto Wolff.

Hamilton and Wolff were a formidable combination. After Nico Rosberg’s departure at the end of 2016, the pair felt almost unstoppable, with Wolff overseeing Mercedes’ continued dominance and Hamilton making brilliant use of the machinery at his disposal. When he made the difference, Wolff let the world know, and the duo’s clear trust in each other was on display regularly.

However, that collaboration came to an end and it was only when emotions ran high after a great success that it became clear how much the impending break had changed the dynamics.

Hamilton’s tears were matched by an outburst of joy from his race engineer Peter Bonnington, but this was followed by a calm and controlled message over the radio from Wolff:

“Lewis, we will triumph, we never give up, and what a way to end our journey together here at the British Grand Prix. We couldn’t wish for anything better.”

The words were met with silence from Hamilton, not even an acknowledgement of the remarks. Perhaps he was still too emotional to respond, but the original post was notable for its lack of praise or congratulations, and so the lack of a response was notable too.

It’s not a criticism of either party, but it is a reminder that this is a partnership that both parties feel has run its course. Hamilton was angry at Mercedes’ lack of commitment to him in recent contract negotiations, leaving the door open to replacing him by offering only a one-year deal with the option of a second year that either party could decide not to exercise.

When Ferrari came knocking with much greater confidence in a longer-term future – for various reasons – Hamilton was the one who activated the release clause and opted to start a new chapter in his career.

It was a decision that left Wolff searching for the right partner for George Russell. While he has understandably had his eye on Max Verstappen for so long, the increasing return of Carlos Sainz to the mix, alongside newcomer Andrea Kimi Antonelli, shows that a succession plan is not yet in place, or at least not ready to be executed.

This has left Wolff in a tight spot and unable to make decisions on the 2025 driver line-up. Hamilton forced him into a change the team had no intention of making, even though Wolff knew that day would come at some point.

Like Hamilton, Wolff is a serial winner and the duo have a strong focus on the future. Knowing that the future will not touch after the end of this season has certainly weakened the bond between a driver and a team that have been synonymous with each other, and successfully so, for the past decade.

But while that was made all the more apparent by victory at Silverstone, the impressive performance also shows the underlying strength of a Hamilton-Mercedes combination when the car gives the seven-time world champion a chance of victory.

To keep the partnership as friendly and positive as possible between now and the end of the year, Mercedes will need to continue on its current course of action, fighting for victories once again. While that will likely lead to some tough moments between two drivers who have shown their race-winning prowess over the past two weekends, it is the main motivating factor behind both Hamilton and Wolff’s reason of existence.

There may be more victories to come, and more tears to be shed as the era finally comes to an end in Abu Dhabi, but Silverstone showed that sentimentality between the two does not extend far. It has never made them successful in the past, and they are both so focused on becoming champions again in the future that neither is going to change that now.