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Wolff sheds light on toxic relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg

NEWS STORY
07/04/2021

Shedding light on the toxic relationship between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff admits that he had to resort to ruling with an "iron fist".

The Austrian arrived at Mercedes at the same time as Hamilton, who had been recruited by Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn.

While Rosberg and Hamilton had become great friends during their karting days, at Mercedes things soon fell apart. Indeed, in only their second season together, the pair's in-fighting was compromising the team, never more so than at Spa, when a second lap clash caused damage to Hamilton's car that subsequently caused him to retire.

During the podium ceremony, Rosberg, who finished second to Daniel Ricciardo, was loudly booed. While, the FIA declared the clash a "racing incident", Mercedes issued the German an undisclosed punishment.

Though the pair were given the freedom to continue fighting, over the seasons that followed there were numerous further incidents, not least their infamous first lap clash at Barcelona in 2016.

"It was very difficult," admits Wolff to the High Performance Podcast, "because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer.

"But still, I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team," he adds. "Sometimes with an iron fist, or iron grip, and they understood that they couldn't let us down, they couldn't let Mercedes down.

"The events of 2014, where I felt there was some selfish behaviour, I said that the next time you come close to the other car, your team mate, 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 probably going to change the way you act; you're not going to put your team mate in the wall.

"I always made it clear that if this were to happen regularly, and I would see a pattern, then I have no fear in making somebody miss races.

"The thing the drivers want the most is to compete in a car. And you always need to be very clear that you compete in the car if you understand the team game.

"It's much more difficult because there are only two drivers in the team and 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 that are going to drive for Mercedes that that's not on."

On reflection, Wolff admits that given their form, it was probably wrong to partner the pair in the same team in the first place.

"I'm not sure we got the best out of both," he admits, "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 of the room, and that is not something that I will ever allow again.

"That happened, but I couldn't change it, because the drivers were hired before I came. And nobody actually thought; 'what was 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. And that's why it's something that we're looking at: how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure with one and another.

"We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we're trying to still keep the positive dynamic in the team. And if it didn't function anymore, that's fine. If we were to fail again, that's fine... but we're changing the driver line-up."

And now he has Hamilton and "wing man" Valtteri Bottas the iron fist is in a cupboard gathering dust.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Superbird70, 09/04/2021 19:17

"Then the FIA also needs to make sure that everyone, for every race, for every lap stays within the lines when they drive. Cheating doesn't need to be overt if the regulators turn a blind eye. There is no consistency. A Williams or Haas should be just as harshly dealt with as a Mercedes or a Red Bull."

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2. Posted by SexyLadyRacer, 09/04/2021 18:57

"Mind games are one thing but when one driver resorts to cheating or even unprofessional and unethical behaviour, then that's no longer acceptable in my opinion!
So, those actions done by Ayrton Senna on track against Prost, or done by Michael Schumacher on Hill, or those done by Rosberg against Hamilton, or even those actions done by Max Verstappen on Ricciardo like in Baku should not be tolerated by the stewards or the FIA! It may be fun to watch but it's unprofessional and unethical and should not be acceptable in Sport! "

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3. Posted by Superbird70, 09/04/2021 18:19

"You have to admit though, from a fan's perspective the Rosberg/Hamilton duels were better than what we are seeing from Bottas/Hamilton. One would be hard pressed to find any former world champion that was not either playing mind games with his opponents or intimidating them on the track, or both. They all did it.The big difference in the 60's, 70's and early 80's was that car to car contact had a high probability of being fatal. Read Prost's biography to see the mind games he played."

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4. Posted by SexyLadyRacer, 09/04/2021 17:57

"I think Toto, like always, is being extremely tactful when talking about how the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg became 'toxic'!
Toto doesn't actually tell us all the juicy bits and only talks in general terms and how he dealt with the situation!

From what I could see and deduce, Lewis Hamilton was extremely annoyed and angry at Nico Rosberg when he started 'cheating' to try and beat him!

I can't remember which came first, but one of the turning points when their relationship turned toxic was when Hamilton was totally annoyed was when Rosberg faked a mistake in qualifying Q3 at the Monaco GP to steal poll! Most experts and I agree that Rosberg faked the mistake because he braked at a completely different point in Q3 than all his other laps for the whole weekend! Rosberg denies that he faked the mistake but of course he would wouldn't he!

Another turning point in their relationship was when Rosberg hit Hamilton from behind and punctured Hamilton's tyre at the Belgium GP! Hamilton said that at the meeting with Toto afterwards, Rosberg had admitted that he could had avoided the contact with Lewis but didn't want to, and I BELIEVE HAMILTON!
So that means Rosberg did it deliberately which means that he was cheating in order to win, but luckily he didn't win anyway! I think it was deliberate because there's never been a similar crash on that part of the track before or since! "

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5. Posted by Superbird70, 09/04/2021 16:10

"So...the article is titled-Wolff sheds light on toxic relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg
This was no Prost/Senna rivalry, but just as toxic for the team, and exciting for the fans. Both drivers continued to race, and win, after the rivalry ended. They were also humble enough to give the respect that had been earned to another competitor.
I am not going to expect that of Rosberg."

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6. Posted by SexyLadyRacer, 09/04/2021 15:18

"@Whoever-WGAS, I'm afraid that you're totally wrong again, perhaps deliberately, again!
To clarify what I actually wrote, which was that the Editor said that he heard from a very trusted source that it was actually Lewis Hamilton who only wanted to sign a one year contract at this time, and I BELIEVE HIM, rather than all these negative people, including some sections of the negative media who always want to put out false and wild narratives to portray Hamilton in a negative like!

These negative people and press put out all these incredible, crazy and ridiculous stuff like supposedly Hamilton's pay demands, share of tv revenues, and vetoes on team mates etc., etc., which all turned out to be TOTAL BS!
Toto Wolff refuted all these rubbish put out by all the negative people and press, and I BELIEVE HIM rather than all the crazies out there!

As far as I know, nobody is even bothered by any supposed threat posed by George Russell, and I think this is all in head of these negative people who wants that to be the case!
George Russell is good but he's still not good enough to beat Lewis Hamilton! Russell is young and still relatively inexperienced, and he still keeps making silly mistakes on a regular basis, just like Verstappen, Leclerc and the rest!
Lewis Hamilton in the same car as Russell, Verstappen or any other driver on the grid will win almost every time! "

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7. Posted by kenji, 09/04/2021 11:15

"@ SexyLadyRacer... your attempt to paint anyone who doubts the veracity of Hamilton's claim re the one year contract as accusing the Ed. of being less than truthful is far wide of the mark. Quite a few others who are professional F1 contributors have voiced their same doubts. If the Editor believes the story that Wolff wanted 2/3 years and was forced to settle for just one then that's fine by me. Maybe I'm totally wrong and if so then I'll put my hand up however until you can provide incontrovertible evidence to the contrary then i'll continue to hold my opinion, such that it is. Just as a follow up...Has Wolff actually stated that he was disappointed with just one year? I would've thought that he'd be most vocal. The other point that's floating around is that Hamilton is rumored to have wanted a substantial pay increase. If that wasn't forthcoming then he might well have decided on just one year in the event that someone somewhere will pay him more come '22 and the new cars. He is also reported to have taken a reduced annual amount. Of course these are just rumors but something you may want to contemplate...

As for Hamilton facing competition, are you saying that the last four years have been an all in, out and out battle for supremacy between two competing team members? Since Rosberg left he's had total protection from Wolff. For your edification...look up what term Wolff actually used to describe him. Finally, I know that the Russell event caused the Hamilton supporters a great deal of grief in the knowledge that the myth had been busted. Sorry but I don't share your grief. Roll on Imola."

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8. Posted by Editor, 09/04/2021 8:54

"@ SexyLadyRacer

"The second point is that the Editor himself had heard from a very trusted source that Hamilton only wanted to sign a one year contract for the time being, so to suggest otherwise would be to accuse the Editor of fibbing!"

Trust me, that hasn't been lost on me."

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9. Posted by SexyLadyRacer, 09/04/2021 5:06

"It seems strange that some people keep repeating things that are blatantly wrong and hope that no one will notice, all because they dislike Lewis Hamilton, for really obvious reasons!
The first really obvious one is that Lewis Hamilton already had serious contenders before, but that he had beaten then all! Remember the 2 time World Champion Fernando Alonso in Hamilton's rookie year in 2007? Yes, well and truly BEATEN by Hamilton!
Nico Rosberg was quite a serious competitor to Hamilton in 2014 too! However, it seems that all Hamilton's team mates are demoralised once they are beaten, and they can no longer improve! The 2016 title won by Nico shouldn't really be counted due to Hamilton's numerous PU failures throughout that season!

The second point is that the Editor himself had heard from a very trusted source that Hamilton only wanted to sign a one year contract for the time being, so to suggest otherwise would be to accuse the Editor of fibbing!

The third point is that Hamilton is a racer and racers will always want to race (fit or unfit)! Hamilton was passed as fit to race in Abu Dhabi and that's the end of the story, no matter what some people want to always perpetuate fake news with ulterior motives!

Now, I see that absolutely no one is mentioning anywhere that the Red Bull car is now the most dominant car on the grid this season!
This is now a fact proven from Pre-season Testing , from Free Practice 1, FP2, FP3 and Qualifying 1, Q2, Q3! By around 0.500 seconds, as Verstappen had floor damage in Q3!
This fact was also proven in the Bahrain Race too! But it was Hamilton who Won because of his all round skills as a driver! Hamilton actually flattered the slow and unbalanced Mercedes in the Race as he did in Q3! The real pace of the Mercedes is more Valtteri Bottas' pace all weekend!

Max Verstappen is now in the most dominant F1 car on the grid, and there should be absolutely no excuse for him and the Red Bull team not to win both the Driver's and Constructor's Championships this season! Actually, there wasn't any excuse that Red Bull failed to win the championships from 2014 to 2020 either, it's just that they weren't good enough! That's the Truth!

The good thing I would say for Max Verstappen is that he seems to have finally matured, a bit!
However, put Lewis Hamilton in the same Red Bull car as Max Verstappen, and Lewis Hamilton will win almost every time!

So Lewis Hamilton is now in a slower, less balanced car than Max Verstappen, but Hamilton will fight like a champ and he would flatter the Mercedes as in Bahrain, and he will relish the fight rather than get demoralised like all his team mates fighting against him, and I am quite certain that he will extend his contract with Mercedes for at least another 1 or 2 years!
This is great news for F1 fans and the sport if you want to see the best driver on the F1 grid,... but it won't be enjoyed by the people who dislike him for the most obvious of reasons! "

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10. Posted by kenji, 08/04/2021 0:38

"IMO we'll never see Hamilton faced with a serious contender. He will retire before that happens. Hamilton has certain strengths and they are supported by the team/Wolff. His weaknesses are also protected as has been witnessed. Last season that was made blatantly obvious that even Russell could win in that car. Russell is good but how good? Why did Hamilton drag himself out of bed to make the second race? If on a second round Russell blew Bottas away again then Hamilton was in deep 'doodoos' hence the one year contract. Despite what Hamilton says i still doubt very much that he wanted that. He is desperate to keep the Mercedes platform....."

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11. Posted by Mad Matt, 07/04/2021 17:32

"I think I agree about the Bottas/Hamilton comparison below. I'd even go further and say that it comes naturally to Lewis to function at that level whereas it seems much more of an effort for Bottas, at least mentally, to find those last few tenths.

I'm not sure I agree with the Nicro comment as there were other factors involved with politics and psychology in the team which seemed to often go Lewis's way.... And we can never really know what might have happened if... but it does seem to me that Nico had to push himself to become a person he didn't really like in order to beat Lewis.

Max, on the other hand, may well be able to "live" with being Lewis's team mate in terms of pace but I'm not sure the team would survive the experience :-)

Just my opinion...."

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12. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 07/04/2021 16:16

"@BrightonCorgi - I rather doubt that will ever happen. Bottas is a very good driver. Hamilton is a great driver. The difference is almost imperceptible to us mortals, but it translates into a couple tenths per lap. And that's enough to keep Hamilton clear of Bottas over a season, unless Hamilton were to have abysmal reliability while Bottas didn't. Even Rosberg, who was closer than Bottas to Hamilton's level, only won in 2016 because Hamilton had more consequential reliability problems. Equal reliability and it's clear that Hamilton would have won in 2016 too.

The better question is what the team dynamics would be if Bottas were replaced with Russell or Verstappen? Both of them would be as close, or closer even than Rosberg was to Hamilton's pace. "

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13. Posted by BrightonCorgi, 07/04/2021 14:16

"If Bottas takes a clear lead in the points over Hamilton, how will the team dynamics be?"

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