Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted Lewis Hamilton’s sensitivities leave him vulnerable.
Formula One’s most decorated driver heads into Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix looking to extend his 14-point lead over Max Verstappen as he bids for an unprecedented eighth world title.
But the 36-year-old recently revealed on social media that he struggles with his mental health.
Reflecting on Hamilton’s post, Wolff told the PA news agency: “I did a podcast with Nico Rosberg a few years ago when we talked about mental health and I have not met one very successful person that wasn’t sensitive.
“Being sensitive means you are vulnerable, but being sensitive also means that you sense better than others and that can be of a huge advantage.
“Lewis develops constantly and it is a slope that never ends. As a personality, he is able to question himself and when something happens he is the first one to say, ‘Was it my mistake or not?’
“That puts you on a trajectory where improvement of yourself becomes a constant factor.
“If you look back a few years ago you see a person that was very much less mature, less capable and less competent than the person here today, so we embrace it and we are learning from each other.”
Hamilton, 36, has taken his game to another level this season with a series of fine performances.
The British driver signed only a one-season contract extension in February and hinted at Mercedes’ launch that this campaign could be his last.
But the seven-time champion has since said that he will not stop at the end of the year. So, why the change of heart?
“We are all competitive animals and, over the off-season, we somehow fall into a winter sleep,” explained Wolff, who expects Hamilton to commit to at least a new two-year deal.
“Bears, panthers and wolves sleep over the winter and then it is time to wake up and that is why, as soon as the stopwatch is out and it starts to get serious, we all prosper.
“We would all be lost a little bit if we didn’t have that sport. It is such an exceptional environment that everything else we do afterwards will carry that little bit of boredom. It is clear when you step out of F1 all of us will need a certain readjustment.”
Wolff has overseen Hamilton’s remarkable rise to the summit of the sport, but their partnership has not always been straightforward, particularly during the years of fractious Mercedes in-fighting when Hamilton and Rosberg wrestled for the title.
“We have really worked on our relationship through some downs to come up so strongly,” added Wolff.
“We are friends, partners, colleagues and we trust each other. We know perfectly well when we have different interests, but we are so honest and transparent that there is never any agenda.
“Lewis has been capable of taking the right decisions at the right time and motivating the team and excelling. You should have heard his debrief after he claimed his 100th pole in Spain. He thanked the team. That is not a driver that runs away with his ego.”
Wolff, 49, could lead Mercedes to an eighth drivers’ and constructors’ double this season following the most dominant period F1 has ever seen. But the Silver Arrows face the biggest threat to their supremacy, yet with Verstappen and Red Bull ready to strike.
“Looking back at the seven titles, it still seems surreal,” concluded Wolff. “It would have been so far out of reach when I started this project that it would have been over-confident and mad to think it could happen.
“I love the pressure-cooker and sport gives you so much back when you meet your own expectations but losing is still as painful as it was in the past.
“This year has been different because of how the season started and we were the hunters and that was a new situation. But I was looking into people’s eyes and I could see the joy and the excitement of going hunting.
“The mentality of this team is to say that when we close the chapter and finish the journey we can look back and ask, ‘What did we achieve?’ But that moment hasn’t come yet.”