When Lewis Hamilton joined Mercedes in 2013 and became Nico Rosberg’s team mate, a historic Formula 1 rivalry was on the verge of being born. The two drivers were friends in their karting days, but when Mercedes became the top team on the grid in 2014, their relationship quickly deteriorated and turned into a fierce rivalry.
Toto Wolff also joined Mercedes in 2013, after his tenure as executive director of Williams, and he soon had to deal with two drivers who had a nasty habit of taking each other out of races.
During his appearance on Jake Humphrey’s High Performance Podcast, Wolff was asked if the rivalry helped bring out the best out of both drivers.
“I’m not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player,” the Austrian said.
“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 into the room, and that is not something I will ever allow again.”
Wolff went on to explain how he was powerless to change the relationship between the two drivers.
“I couldn’t change it, because the drivers were hired before I came. Nobody actually thought what is 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.
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“That’s why it is something that we’re looking at, how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure of one and the other.
“We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we’re trying still to keep the positive dynamic in the team.”
The Austrian went on to explain how he tried to appeal to his drivers to not risk the overall success of the team when facing each other on the track.
“It was very difficult, 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, sometimes with an iron fist, and they understood that they couldn’t let us down, they couldn’t let Mercedes down.
“In the events of 2014, I felt there was some selfish behaviour. I said the next time you come close to the other car, your teammate, 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 going to change the way you act. You’re not going to put your teammate into the wall.
“I always made clear that if this was going to happen regularly and there was a pattern, I have no fear in making somebody miss races,” concluded Wolff.