Toto Wolff says a late-night conversation between himself and Lewis Hamilton once salvaged their relationship, which had deteriorated during the years of Hamilton's intense rivalry with teammate Nico Rosberg. With Rosberg partnering Hamilton between 2013 and 2016, Mercedes' dominance from 2014 meant that the pair became each other's only title rivals. Hamilton won out against Rosberg in a tight 2014 fight, had a much easier run to the title in 2015, but then encountered a very different Rosberg for 2016. That season was the lowest point of the two teammate's relationships, with several flashpoints – including the pair taking each other out in Spain. Rosberg would go on to win the title and promptly retire from the sport, but Wolff said it took some time for his relationship with Hamilton to thaw out following the season.
Wolff opens up about personal conversations with Hamilton
"We met at the Christmas party in my home in Oxfordshire that December, reluctantly," Wolff told UK publication The Times . "I said we need to decide whether we want to work together or not. 'You want to win as a driver, I want to win as a team. Sometimes our different agendas are going to lead to conflict and we need to decide whether we can cope with that situation'. "We were in my kitchen. I said to him, and Susie (Wolff, Toto's wife) didn't much like this analogy, that even though Susie and I might disagree about something, [it] would never come into my mind to divorce. "'And it's the same with you Lewis,' I said. 'I don't want a divorce. You're the best driver. I want you in our car and we want to provide you with the best car'. "We kind of went into this discussion at loggerheads and then, after four or five hours in the kitchen, we found ourselves on a totally different level. A purely business-related relationship had become a personal relationship. "He's a friend. [It] doesn't mean we don't argue anymore but now, Lewis' success is the team's success, and the team's success is Lewis' success."
How Wolff brought Hamilton/Rosberg battle under control
Wolff also explained how he admonished both Hamilton and Rosberg as their on-track fighting threatened the results for Mercedes in the championship tables. Referring to 2014, when contact between the two drivers at Spa-Francorchamps resulted in both having compromised races, Wolff said he forced Rosberg and Hamilton to face the rest of the team. "I felt that they were opportunistic, putting their own objectives before the team's objectives, that they did not respect that there were a thousand people who worked for them. I had to show the organisation that I wouldn't allow that behavior anymore," he emphasised. "After the race, I demanded that both drivers come out to the space where all the engineers were. I told them, 'Look at everybody here in the room, imagine everybody back at home and their families, and realise how you are making us look'. I used some harsh words I cannot repeat. "I saw the engineers look at the floor, the drivers look at the floor. I said, 'The next time when you want to drive each other off the road, you think about all the faces here, and then you will think twice'. "I told them that if it happened again, I would not hesitate to take them out of the car. I said, 'Don't challenge me on this – you don't want to find out what I am capable of.'"