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Formula 1

Wolff: Mercedes didn't foresee the issues between Hamilton and Rosberg

While the atmosphere at Mercedes is now a positive one, things were much more complicated when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were teammates. The two saw their relationship fall apart after some fierce battles on track, with Toto Wolff admitting he doesn't want that dynamic to ever return to the team again.

Article
To news overview © Daimler

Mercedes' team boss Toto Wolff has said that no thought was given to the dynamic between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg until the pair fell out fighting for titles, to the detriment of the team on occasion.

With no clear leader dynamic at the team from 2013 onwards as Hamilton joined Mercedes, the pair's relationship disintegrated from close friendship into all out war as the team dominated Formula 1. It led to several on-track incidents and clashes, with an uneasy atmosphere. While Hamilton won the title in 2014 and 2015, Rosberg defeated Hamilton in 2016 before announcing his retirement just days later.

Reflecting on that time period, Wolff said that he didn't think the antagonistic nature of the driver's relationship brought out their best driving.

"I'm not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player," Wolff told Jake Humphrey on the High Performance podcast.

"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."

As for how it happened in the first place, Wolff said the hiring of Hamilton alongside Rosberg to replace the retiring Michael Schumacher happened before he had influence over the decision.

"I couldn't change it, because the drivers were hired before I came," Wolff said.

With Hamilton and Rosberg closely matched throughout their junior careers, Wolff explained that he felt no thought had been given by the team management as to how the pair would gel together and that this led to the increasingly poisonous atmosphere.

"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," Wolff added.

"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. We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we're trying still to keep the positive dynamic in the team."

With Wolff taking over the reigns of Mercedes from Ross Brawn, he explained that he had to instil a sense of responsibility that he expected from Hamilton and Rosberg as they represented the brand. This came to a head at Spa-Francorchamps in 2014, when the pair clashed at Les Combes while fighting over the lead.

"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 said. "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 think about Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Mercedes. That's going to change the way you act. You're not going to put your teammate 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."

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