F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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The boss of Mercedes Toto Wolff has revealed he feels the relationship between former Formula One team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg ‘didn’t get the best’ out of both drivers, and said it will not be something he will allow to happen again under his watch.
Hamilton and Rosberg had a turbulent four years together at Mercedes, which came to an abrupt end when Rosberg beat Hamilton to the 2016 title and promptly retired from the sport soon after.
Speaking on Jake Humphrey’s High Performance Podcast, Wolff said: “I’m not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player.
“If the debriefing room is full of negativity, because the two drivers are hostile with each other, then that will spill over into the energy into the room, and that is not something I will ever allow again.”
Rosberg and Hamilton had known each other for years before they were partnered together in 2014, and were even childhood friends and team-mates during their karting days.
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The inter-team tussle was reminiscent of fierce conflict between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, with tensions often high within the Mercedes garage.
Wolff explained: “It happened, but I couldn’t change it, because the drivers were hired before I came. Nobody actually thought what is the dynamic between the two?
“What is the past between the two? There was a lot of historical context that none of us knew, and will never know.
“That’s why it is something that we’re looking at, how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure of one and the other.
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“We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we’re trying still to keep the positive dynamic in the team.
“And if it wouldn’t function anymore, that’s fine. If we were to fail again, that’s fine, but we’re changing the driver line-up.”
However Wolff admitted he tried to keep tensions from spilling over between the two, but some things felt out of his control.
“It was very difficult, because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer,” Wolff continued.
“But still I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team, sometimes with an iron fist, and they understood that they couldn’t let us down, they couldn’t let Mercedes down.
“In the events of 2014, I felt there was some selfish behaviour. I said the next time you come close to the other car, your teammate, you think about the Mercedes brand. You think about single individuals in the team.
“You’re not going to put your team-mate into the wall.
“I always made clear that if this was going to happen regularly and there was a pattern, I have no fear in making somebody miss races.”
But Wolff said the years between Rosberg and Hamilton were a good learning process, and it’s helped shape them into one of the most formidable forces on the grid.
He added: “I think the thing the drivers want the most is competing in a car, and you always need to be very clear that you compete in the car if you understand the team.
“It’s much more difficult as there’s only two drivers in the team, it’s not easy to find a replacement, and a replacement on that level, but I’m prepared to sacrifice a race or two just to make it clear for all future generations who are going to drive for Mercedes that it’s not on.”
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