Lewis Hamilton right to make a stand for beliefs, says Mercedes' Toto Wolff
Mercedes boss talks about the "scars" Hamilton carries from past racist abuse, and why F1's world champion should be respected for supporting the causes he believes in
By James Galloway in Mexico City
Last Updated: 26/10/19 9:26am
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he has learned from Lewis Hamilton's experiences, and believes F1's world champion should be given "respect" for championing environmental issues.
In an interview with PA ahead of this weekend's Mexican GP, where Hamilton has a first mathematical chance to make history and become just the second F1 driver reach six world titles, Wolff said Hamilton had been "scarred" by racist abuse he suffered as a junior karter.
"When Lewis was younger, he was the only black kid among the white kids, and I know he was racially abused on the track," Wolff said in the interview.
"If that happens to an eight-year-old, or a 10-year-old, it just leaves scars that will not go away. If, as a child, you have had to overcome abuse and discrimination, on one side it makes you a stronger personality. But on the other side, it also leaves scars."
Appearing in the Team Principals' Press Conference in Mexico, Wolff was asked about those comments by Sky Sports News.
"I don't want to step too much into personal experiences and things that he made aware to me, because this is a discussion we had in private, but look at the room here, it's not very diverse," said the Mercedes team principal.
"I think for us it is very difficult to understand that if you are one of the very few, that you are faced with these kinds of situations."
Wolff added: "It's more the subtle side that is very painful and hurts and this is why we sometimes need to put ourselves into a different perspective and I have very much learned to do that because of him and his perspective.
"I have never seen things in that way before he had explained it to me and I realised them."
Wolff: Hamilton deserves respect
Hamilton spoke eloquently and passionately about environmental subjects in Thursday's news conference in Mexico, explaining how he had taken steps to be more environmentally friendly - lifestyle changes Wolff believes should be commended rather than criticised.
"In terms of things that have been said around the environment, I think it is very important that each of us tries - and this is my personal opinion - tries to the best of his abilities to be conscious about things and help in reducing emissions and our own personal bit to the whole story," said Wolff.
"I have seen Lewis doing that. I have seen him changing in his behaviours, be it reducing his own flying, and he has done that, and I think we need to acknowledge that and respect rather than criticise.
"It's the power... how can I say, almost like the economies of scale - if everybody changes, we will have nine billion people changing and I think it needs to start with yourself and he has done that and I think he is right."