Mercedes vows to allow its drivers to race


Whether Ferrari and friends have closed the gap or not, Mercedes looks likely to be the class of the field once again this season.

Talking at a media event in Stuttgart, at which the German manufacturer kick-started its F1 and DTM programmes, Toto Wolff insisted that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be free to race one another this season.

Whilst Rosberg took the title fight almost down to the wire in 2014, last season teammate Hamilton appeared to be under a lot less pressure, cruising to his second successive title. However, in the final races, despite the title already being lost, Rosberg put together a string of very strong performances that left many wondering why he hadn't done it sooner.

Whether changes to the rules accounted for Hamilton's relative slump, whether he took his foot of the gas having secured the title, or whether Rosberg genuinely rediscovered his mojo, we do not know.

However, Toto Wolff insists that the pair are free to race.

"When we started the project in 2013, there was a lot of pressure on the team in order to achieve the results and win races, and we have done okay," he said. "In 2014, we won the championship and we confirmed that it wasn't a one-off in 2015.

"But in order to contain that, we tried to put a framework around it. Sometimes it functions, sometimes it doesn't. We learned some interesting lessons and we improved as an organisation. With Nico and Lewis, we have been together for a couple of years and it functions pretty well.

"So we owe it to them and we owe it to F1 to just let them race. The ride is going to be a bit more difficult for the team sometimes, but that is absolutely necessary."

Asked if allowing his drivers to battle, especially in view of some of their previous encounters, this might allow Ferrari to take advantage, Wolff responded: "No. I don't think so. We are reducing the rules, or framework, because we are more comfortable in working with each other. There is great respect among the individuals. I don't fear it is going to be different than it has been in the last year.

"The regulations help us because there is much less engineering input into the car and into the driver," he continued. "There is much less guidance in terms of strategy and tyre optimisation, or how to drive the cars. So it is much more down to them how to drive the car anyway. That is very good for the sport. It puts more pressure and brings new effort for the drivers. Our role, by bringing these regulations forward, has been to step back a little bit.

"So it pretty much fits our strategy in leaving it up to these two to really fight it out on the track."

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Published: 11/03/2016
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