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Mercedes

Wolff must move to diffuse any Hamilton-Russell tension

Toto Wolff has a job on his hands to ensure tensions don't boil over at Mercedes following Lewis Hamilton and George Russell's crash in Qatar.

Hamilton crash Qatar
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Make no doubt about it - there is a power struggle happening at the Mercedes Formula 1 team.

In one corner is a seven-time World Champion with 103 Grand Prix wins, a formidable opponent to all and who stands as statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen.

In the other corner is the challenger, the upcoming star who is being fashioned into the role of the face of Mercedes’ future and the figure to continue the greatness that Hamilton has installed within the squad.

After all of his unprecedented success in F1, Hamilton has little left to prove to anyone. But the lure of F1 glory is so great that even amid Mercedes’ slump he has committed his future to the squad in search of more accolades.

Russell, meanwhile, has a chance to prove to all that he can successfully take on the challenge of being paired against a driver of Hamilton’s calibre.

Hamilton doesn’t want to be shuffled down the priority list within Mercedes, hard as it is to believe it ever happening, and is vying to prove that Mercedes is still his squad.

Matters came to a head at the first corner of the Qatar Grand Prix, when Hamilton attempted to move around the outside of Russell on a softer tyre compound. Starting in second and third respectively, Mercedes was set up for a strong result.

However, Hamilton swiped across the racing line a little too much and it saw him pitched into the gravel with just three wheels attached to his wagon.

Russell was sent into a spiral and found himself at the back of the field, frustrated with Hamilton’s aggressiveness. His continued pondering over the clash on the team radio proved enough to the ears of Toto Wolff who, sat from his Monaco home as he recovers from surgery, dialled in to put an end to his dwelling.

Wolff's job

But does Wolff have a bigger problem to monitor beyond the Qatar crash?

Mercedes has had bigger fish to fry over the last two years than internal squabbling over driver status.

Since the introduction of new technical regulations last year, the once-dominant outfit has been performing on the back foot and has instead been forced to witness rivals Red Bull shatter the field.

Last year it finished third in the Constructors’ Championship, its lowest result since the 2012 campaign. It is currently on course to end the season second in this year’s standings, but under its own doing, it failed to maximise the potential in Qatar with Ferrari down one car before the lights even went out.

Mercedes’ route back to the forefront of the F1 field is proving to be a long one, and there is no doubt that its driver line-up is strong enough to ride out the storm it is currently in.

Once the Brackley and Brixworth engineers get on top of the woes and the car is in a consistent place of competing for victories, will its efforts be damaged by a driver line-up that has been through hell?

Both drivers have asserted that they have no issues with each other following their Qatar collision, but it was a dent in Mercedes’ season and a poor return for the work that the hundreds of people behind the scenes have strived to achieve.

Let's not forget that there was angst over team radio at the Japanese Grand Prix as team orders came into effect at the end of a race that saw the duo almost make contact in battle.

If the duo continue to be closely matched, as they have often been throughout their stint together, it increases the risk of another coming together between the pair. Qatar hurt, but apply the same scenario in the situation of a championship tussle with a rival team, and the fallout has the potential to be nuclear.

It may be a happy family now but caution must be applied to the drivers who risk becoming distracted by their scuffle of pride, resulting in failure to capitalise on achieving the team’s ultimate goal.

F1 2023 Qatar Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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