Mercedes unruffled by Bernie Ecclestone's Lewis Hamilton claims
Wolff laughs off Ecclestone's suggestion Hamilton "not the racer he was"; World champion returns Mercedes to front row in Baku
By James Galloway in Baku
Last Updated: 11/12/18 2:46pm
Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton remains fired-up for Formula 1, as the Mercedes chief gave a relaxed response to Bernie Ecclestone's "hand-grenade" claims about the world champion.
Ecclestone, F1's former chief executive, appeared in the paddock for the second time this season in Baku and said that while Hamilton was "still very quick, still super talented, still a super nice guy", the four-time world champion was perhaps "not the racer he was" after a winless start to the season.
Lewis hopes to give Vettel hard time
But an untroubled Wolff told reporters: "It's Bernie! I just had a game of backgammon against him and I lost.
"He comes in and throws a hand-grenade and it's in the papers - it's great.
"How the news runs these days we are oscillating between exuberance and depression, and back again, and when things are not going in the right direction it's doom days and when you win two races in a row it's the 'Mercedes dominance destroying the sport'. Maybe it's somewhere in the middle."
The Mercedes chief said the world champions as a whole had not hit their highest standards so far having gone three races without a victory for the first time in over four years.
"We haven't collectively performed on the level we would have wanted to," he added. "There were three races we could have won and we didn't, that's a fact.
"I still see the fire and desire very much burning in him [Hamilton]."
Wolff added: "Lewis is remarkably easy with these kind of things. All of us very much respect Bernie, but we have also learnt to take the comments with a smile. It's the same way he does it."
Hamilton declined to discuss Ecclestone's comments when asked about them in the post-qualifying press conference. Then asked if he remained as good as ever, the world champion replied: "We'll see at the end of the year."
The Englishman returned Mercedes to the front-row of the grid for the first time in three races in Saturday's qualifying hour as the world champions impressively recovered from a Friday in Baku which, in the words of Wolff, had seen them "nowhere" in the leading order.
Valtteri Bottas qualified third in the sister car to give the team their best two-car qualifying result of the season so far.