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Wolff: Hamilton is Rosberg's benchmark

NEWS STORY
07/08/2016

Whilst some believe the title fight is already decided, Toto Wolff insists Nico Rosberg is stronger than many might think.

A 43 point lead turned to a 19 point deficit would break many men, but Wolff believes Rosberg is better than that.

Whilst the German has had an atrocious July, unlike his teammate who won all four races over the course of the month, Wolff is convinced he can turn things around.

Asked by the official F1 website, if he believes Rosberg can fight back and regain the championship lead, the Austrian said: "He does," referring to the German.

"We are half way through the 2016 season and only nineteen points separate both," he continues. "That's less than one race win, and Nico is superb in qualifying. So both are on the same level."

When it is pointed out that Hamilton was winning almost from the moment he entered F1, whilst, following his GP2 title win, Rosberg took almost five years to win again, Wolff dismisses the suggestion that this might mentally affect the driver.

"If you end up in Formula One and win races, you are mentally very strong," he says. "Nico's circumstances were completely different to those of Lewis who immediately started his F1 career in a winning team with McLaren. Probably if he wouldn't have won back then, that would have meant something.

"Right now Nico is paired with Lewis who is probably the best driver in F1 at the moment, and yes, that is a tough challenge. That is a benchmark, and he accepts that."

The Austrian is also defensive of Hamilton's globe-trotting rock 'n' roll lifestyle.

"As long as he functions as a race driver on the weekend and delivers results, we don't interfere in the private life of the drivers," says Wolff. "Everybody is allowed to have friends in the social environment he chooses. This goes for both the drivers and each member of the team.

"So far over the last three years our results show that this has worked out well. Is it a recipe for future success? I don't know!"

Asked if allowing him such freedom is meant to keep Hamilton happy, Wolff is quick to respond: "My role is not to keep anybody happy. It is about keeping everybody in the team in a good place and providing a framework that makes it possible to deliver top results and the driver is very much part of that.

"So considering what makes the drivers function well is an important part, but I am not Santa Claus!"

Of course, the relationship between the two drivers is famously fractious, and has 'spilled-over' on a number of occasions. Indeed, recently Bernie Ecclestone said the bad blood between Rosberg and Hamilton is better publicity for F1 than Mercedes domination.

"I am sure he still has fond memories of Barcelona. And indeed: it was a good one!" says the Austrian. "It was the complete wipe-out of both Mercedes cars and provided ground for the next generation superstar: Max Verstappen. So putting our pain aside, you could say that it was a good weekend for Formula One!

"After all these years we have accepted that driver rivalry can create painful friction among them but it also creates headlines," he continues. "Nevertheless we are responsible for delivering results. And results are what really count! Scoring points is what gets you championships and not front pages full of crashed cars! Therefore contact between the cars is unacceptable. Period!"

Nonetheless, both drivers are retained as teammate for the next wo seasons, which prompts the question how will the team react when they clash again, as they invariably will.

"If they make contact again in such a way that we deem one or both drivers being responsible for it - throwing away the work of 1,500 people and risking the reputation of a big brand - then we will take action and both drivers know it," says Wolff.

"We have always said we need to consider whether the line-up is sustainable long-term if that keeps on happening, if we can keep riding this wild horse, and we haven't changed our opinion."

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