Toto Wolff has praised Lewis Hamilton for raising morale inside Mercedes after the team failed to provide the seven-time F1 champion with a car to avenge his gut-wrenching 2021 title defeat to Max Verstappen.
Following a torrid start to the campaign with a W13 badly affected by porpoising and bouncing as a consequence of the wide-sweeping aerodynamic regulations that were introduced last winter, Hamilton hit back to score eight podiums.
For the first time in his F1 career, however, he failed to score a win across the season and finished outside the top five in the drivers' standings.
It led to Hamilton bidding 'good riddance' to the car after his final outing in the end-of-season test at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island circuit on Tuesday, two days after he suffered his first mechanical failure since 2018 that forced him to retire from the grand prix.
It was far from the bounce-back performance that had been hoped for after the 37-year-old suffered a controversial and agonising last-lap defeat to Verstappen a year previously in Abu Dhabi.
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Proclaiming Hamilton to have been "really, really good this year," Wolff added: "We expected a world champion, that has had a world title taken away from him, to come in and try to smash everybody.
"But we didn't give him a good enough car to do that, and he's held us up at times, the energy level when it was down, up there in the briefing room on days when it was difficult for him."
Russell beating Hamilton "irrelevant" - Wolff
Reflecting on Hamilton not standing on the top step of the podium this year, and with his winless streak the longest of his career at 23, Wolff added: "That particular record, I don't think it matters a lot.
"It is more about helping to set the sails for next season, and the partnership with George was really good, together they developed the car.
"For me, knowing him for 10 years on the personal side, from a human side, he has been exceptional, better than all the performances he had in the car.
"For me, his attitude and mindset this year were outstanding."
For only the third time in his 16-season F1 career, Hamilton was beaten by a team-mate, with Russell joining Jenson Button in 2011 and Nico Rosberg in 2016.
Although Hamilton finished 35 points adrift of Russell, Wolff feels the standings are "irrelevant".
"They are not racing for a world championship," stated Wolff.
"They haven't raced for victories, apart from Brazil, so I don't think for either of the two it matters that they finish second, third, fourth or fifth."