• IN WORDS: Lewis & Toto In Conversation

The 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix marked Lewis and Toto's 100th race with the Mercedes F1 team, so we sat them down to reflect on their story so far...

What convinced you to join the team?

Lewis Hamilton: "I remember being in Monaco, down by the pool, during the summer of 2012, I guess. And Niki calling me and he's like "We want you!" We had never really ever spoken, me and Niki. He didn't have a good view of me. I don't know why. He didn't really know me. We hadn't even met and had a conversation.

"So I'd hear these things that he would say about me in the media and I was like 'Why is Niki hating on me?' And then, when we started talking, particularly when we first met, we started to realise that we had a lot in common and we were very similar in our views of racing - like 'Actually, he's not a bad dude!'

"Then Ross [Brawn] came to my Mum's house and sat my kitchen, which was pretty cool. Growing up watching Michael winning all those Championships, Seeing Ross on the pit wall for all those Grands Prix and I've got the guy in my Mum's kitchen asking me to, basically, replace Michael.

"I love the idea that you watch Michael go to Ferrari and take them from not being successful. Being a part of that journey and winning - it looked amazing to watch and I wanted to do something like that.

"I'd already done everything I think I could have done at McLaren. I saw Mercedes as this baby about to start growing into something and I wanted to be a part of it. People saw it as a big risk but I'm a risk taker and that's exciting. If you're not taking risks, you're not living.

'So what made you join?'

Toto Wolff: "It was Dieter (Zetsche) and Wolfgang Bernhard, who were part of the board. I got a call in the summer of 2012. I was at Williams and we had an OK year. We won a race with Pastor Maldonado in Barcelona...

LH: "But were you managing the team?"

TW: "No, it was a crazy situation. In 2009 I got in as an investor. I wasn't interested in an operational role. Then, over the years, my involvement got a bit more.

"But, I was just a non-executive. Then, after the start of the season in 2012, the [Williams] CEO, Adam Parr, decided that he wanted to leave the team. He left the team and there was nobody executive there. I was the only one on the table that could have done it and, together with Frank, I jumped in, got my team kit and we had a good season.

"In the summer, I got a call from one of the (Mercedes) board members, from Wolfgang (Bernhard), who said 'Why don't we meet for breakfast?' I didn't know what to expect. He said 'we would like you to run the team' and I said 'well, this is not really my thing, working for a large corporation. Because I am a shareholder at Williams. This is a real opportunity for me'.

"He said 'We want you to be a shareholder. We believe this is the model in Formula One. You need to have skin in the game and we want you to be our managing partner'. I went away and thought 'Managing Partner for Mercedes... this is a real opportunity.' But I struggled - I struggled to leave Williams. I had started to have a good relationship with some of the people there and a great relationship with Claire, Frank and Mike O'Driscoll, the CEO. I was close to saying I'd stay at Williams. But then, obviously, Mercedes shines so bright..."

I love how it came across in that movie how serious he was as a racing driver - went to bed early and all these different things. But, then you hear all the stories he tells you and hes just as bad as James Hunt! Lewis Hamilton

What's your funniest Niki Lauda stories?

TW: "I have many funny Niki Lauda stories. Some of them I share with you because we are on the plane often together from the races. The best one would probably be a year ago, or so. We ended up in Tokyo at dinner in a very posh restaurant, with many elegant people there.

"I was sitting there with a friend of ours and Niki comes a little bit late and says 'have you guys figured out how the Pay TV functions?' I said 'Pay TV? Which century are you living in?!' So we explained to him how he could watch these things on his mobile phone.

LH: "What was he trying to watch on Pay TV?!"

TW: "I guess some kind of action movie. He only had the starter and left quickly..."

LH: "I don't remember all the stories, is my problem. What I do know is... you know the movie, Rush, which is kind of neat - I remember how nervous he was about it when he did a screening at the Nürburgring, I think, years ago.

"I love how it came across in that movie how serious he was as a racing driver - went to bed early and all these different things. But, then you hear all the stories he tells you and he's just as bad as James Hunt! Maybe, not the drinking, but..."

TW: "I don't know what you mean?!"

LH: "I can't say..."

What's your best memory?

LH: "I think last year was such a special year for us in terms of all of us being unified and the momentum that we were able to create. We kept supporting each other. When one part of the team slipped a little bit we were strong enough to lift each other up, when I slipped a little bit the team was able to lift me up.

"Overall, it was a momentous year in the relationship. Naturally, our relationship has been growing through that whole phase. It wouldn't be the same if you weren't competitive. You can see how competitive you are.

"I'm always hoping I do a good job when I come across the line in Qualifying because otherwise you bang the table."

TW: "But you want me to bang the table..."

LH: "We need the money to be invested in the car, not new tables! What's your best memory?"

TW: "For me, I am always so sceptical. I try to identify where we can improve and I forget the good moments, unfortunately, which is not really nice for your happiness. I remember only the toughest days.

"Because I don't have a very good long-term memory, I think about Monaco last year, which was really important for us. I couldn't sleep, I was getting up in the night..."

Yes, when we had a miserable weekend. I couldnt sleep, so I got up at three oclock in the morning, put my clothes on and walked through the streets. Toto Wolff

LH: "Monaco last year?"

TW: "Yes, when we had a miserable weekend. I couldn't sleep, so I got up at three o'clock in the morning, put my clothes on and walked through the streets, saw the drunk people coming out of Amber Lounge..."

LH: "Why do you remember the negative things?!"

"I don't know - but it made a change afterwards. We improved from there on. So, I am always remembering the negatives."

LH: "So, you're always thinking of things you can improve on?"

TW: "Yes"

LH: "I think, even in a relationship or friendship, I only remember the good things. I don't know why - but I always say that the negative things that have happened in the past are irrelevant.

"The great experiences that we've had - the success, the great moments in the garage when I come back and see how happy the guys are, or happen to see the screen and they've all punched the air I feel like I'm a part of something really special."

TW: "I need coaching, I guess, from you! I'm going to lie on a sofa with you sat behind me..."

LH: "You just absorb the positive and swerve the negative - I do, anyway."

TW: "That's maybe better..."

What does the future hold?

LH: "My hope for the future is that we continue - continue to grow, excel and always move forwards. Obviously, to build our relationship. But I really want to take this team the furthest it has ever been.

"I want to be part of this journey where Mercedes are the most successful Formula One team in history.

"I want to push it as far as I can, with the lifespan as a driver that I have, that it would take a long, long time for anyone else to catch up. I think it would really upset the red cars and the red team, so that's my goal...

TW: "Same for me. It's an easy one. We have started to set the wheels in motion over the last four years. I take so much pleasure in working with you and the team in general that there is no other place I would want to be.

"I take enjoyment in being at the factory, walking around. Even at the races, where there is a lot of pressure, it's a good place to be.

"I think we can build something that, if we were to look back in 20 or 30 years, we could say we have been part of the Silver Arrows era and of a Mercedes era in Formula One that was the most successful.

"Working for such a brand and with such a brand is something you don't get the opportunity to do very often. We have just started."

LH: "Shall we say some negative things now?"

TW: "Well that's not hopes... is there any negative stuff we should say?"

If we were to look back in 20 or 30 years, we could say we have been part of the Silver Arrows era and of a Mercedes era in Formula One that was the most successful. Toto Wolff

LH: "This is the nicest conversation. We don't normally have these nice conversations, we are normally arguing about something... I'm kidding."

TW: "Always for the benefit of the whole thing. He's so competitive in anything."

LH: "Toto's super competitive, it's ridiculous, and he thinks he's better than me."

TW: "You need to win in everything we do."

LH: "I do need to win in everything, I hate losing. Do you hate losing?"

TW: "Yeah, I do. It's so painful."

LH: "What do you think when you watch a video after a race of you banging the table?"

TW: "That I look stupid but it's the emotion that I have, I am so angry when that happens because the pain of losing lasts so much longer. The joy from winning is two hours or five hours, but the losing..."

LH: "But the build-up is so long. I have the exact same..."

TW: "When I heard about your gearbox three or four days ago, I woke up at 4am in the morning, Susie said 'what is going on?' I replied, 'I'm thinking about this damn gearbox!'".

LH: "I have the same. The worst thing is I think people watching often find it difficult... because today, after Qualifying, I'm in a pain, a pain that I can't describe. No matter how many years I've been racing, it's still there.

"You know you can do better but it didn't quite work out. It's not the end of the world but it just lingers with you. After the last race, I had sleepless nights as well, where I'd wake up from a nightmare, but the nightmare is me in the race and other things are happening, all these different scenarios.

"'What if I'd done this, what if we'd done that? Could we have won?' I don't know if you'd been running through that."

TW: "Remember our discussion Sunday after Melbourne. It's just a really difficult moment, for me it gives me physical pain."

LH: "Same, but it wouldn't be the same without that pain. Imagine if we'd just cruised on by, whether you win or you lose, and it's just cool. It wouldn't be the same. If you didn't have the lows, you wouldn't be able to appreciate the highs..."