Lewis Hamilton says title form down to 2016 chat in Toto Wolff's kitchen
Lewis Hamilton has credited a meeting he had in Toto Wolff's kitchen at the end of 2016 as the catalyst for the scintillating form which has put him on the brink of a fourth world title.
Hamilton is one fifth-place finish away from becoming just F1's fourth quadruple world champion with his coronation set to come in this Sunday's Mexican GP, live only on Sky Sports F1.
The Mercedes driver has won nine races so far this year, including five of the last six, and believes the clear-the-air meeting he held at Wolff's Oxfordshire home after losing last year's title to team-mate Nico Rosberg has proved a turning point in his relationship with the team.
"Going to see Toto at the end of last year was crucial in terms of solidifying longevity within the team," said Hamilton after winning Sunday's US GP.
"To just put everything on the table and say what's needed to say. Then to build on creating a new stronger relationship, which we've done."
The Hamilton-Wolff summit in early December 2016 came two weeks after the Englishman had ignored direct instructions from Mercedes' pit wall in the Abu Dhabi title decider asking him to speed up in the lead of the race.
Hamilton was going slower in an attempt to back Rosberg into the cars behind in a last-gasp attempt to beat his team-mate to the world title. The pair's 2016 title duel had been dogged by flashpoints, including two crashes on track.
Rosberg won the championship, but retired from F1 days later, with Valtteri Bottas later hired in his place.
Wolff believes his post-season Hamilton chat meant they were able to start afresh this year.
"We had a difficult moment in Abu Dhabi last year and we came back together a couple of days later and had a long evening in my kitchen and put it all out," he explained.
"Maybe all the frustrations and the questions that were grown over the years were all dismantled. We went off and he came back with a great mindset. He has grown stronger through the year.
"You can see also the relationship with Valtteri is an important factor. The spirit is great within the team and, through all the difficult moments, that was an essential piece of the jigsaw."
Hamilton: 2016 was 'uncomfortable'
Hamilton also credits Bottas' arrival, and the emergence of Ferrari as a credible title threat, as helping to diffuse internal tensions that had built up at Mercedes during three years of exclusive duels between himself and Rosberg.
"Firstly, everyone will be making assumptions," said Hamilton. "Ultimately nobody knows what happened within the team apart from the people that are in the team who would be able to tell you how the dynamic was.
"For sure it was uncomfortable. I can't say it was great last year. But this year, having that talk with Toto and coming in and really working on the relationship… my relationship with the team, both sides [of the garage], is better than it's ever been."
Asked if the same environment could have been achieved if Rosberg was still his team-mate, Hamilton said: "No."
With his former rival in retirement, Hamilton has claimed the vast majority of Mercedes' poles and wins this year with Wolff hailing the run of form since the summer break which has put the 32-year-old on the brink of history.
"I've worked with him since five years and I've never seen him operate at that level," added the Mercedes chief. "The raw pace is spectacular. Understanding the tyres and the ability of the car that was difficult sometimes is not easy.
"The sustainable performance on that level I haven't seen before."