Hamilton told it is "irrelevant" where he finishes by Wolff – "it is all bad"

Toto Wolff has mounted a staunch defence of Lewis Hamilton after the seven-times world champion finished NINE places behind team-mates George Russell at Imola on Sunday.

Following another miserable race, Hamilton not only finds himself 58 points adrift of leader Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ standings, he is 21 points behind his fellow Mercedes driver. Being outperformed by a team-mate is not what Hamilton is used to, but Wolff insists he will bounce back, saying all of the Grand Prix legends go through a crisis.

The Mercedes team principal said: “In a way, it’s irrelevant if Lewis finishes eighth, 12th or 15th in a race – it is all bad. But the real stars, they have recovered. There is no-one out there, of the great ones that come into my mind, that did not have certain moments in their career where things did not run properly.

“And that is now the case with Lewis. But he is going to help us sort this out and we are sticking together through good and bad times. And this is certainly a bad time.”

Even though it is obvious the Mercedes car is way off the pace set by Red Bull and Ferrari this season, eyebrows have been raised at Hamilton’s results compared to those of a 24-year-old in his first senior campaign with the team. Hamilton finished third in the opening race at Bahrain, one place ahead of his running partner, but since then, the 37-year-old Brit has come in 10th, fourth and 13th, compared to Russell’s fifth, third and fourth spots.

But Wolff is desperate to deflect any criticism away from Hamilton, saying: “In a way, I have to protect him here. It is not his low … it is the low of the car performance. We know he is the seven-times world champion. This guy is the best driver in the world and he’s just not having a machine and equipment underneath him to be able to execute.”

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While Hamilton is in very unfamiliar territory, Russell is somehow wringing some decent results out of a badly misfiring Mercedes machine and that has caught Wolff’s eye. Wolff said: “I am very impressed with how George has settled in, how professionally and analytically, he helps to assess the situation. And the combination of the two drivers is one of the very few highlights of our journey so far.

“They are very productive and positive for the team and I could not be happier with the driver line-up. But when I see the car bouncing, I wonder how the two of them can even keep the car on the track at times. Lewis deserves better from us.

“We have the two best drivers – well, maybe two of the three best drivers – and they deserve a car and a power unit that makes them fight at the front rather than then being lapped. That’s not what any of them deserve.”

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