The internal rivalry between championship leader Nico Rosberg and second placed Lewis Hamilton is hurting Mercedes, team chief Toto Wolff hinted on Saturday after Williams dominated Qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix.
After winning the first six races of the season, Mercedes were overtaken by Red Bull in Montreal, and on Saturday they also failed to secure pole position for the first time this year. Instead, Rosberg came third and Hamilton ninth.
“I think both of them are going for the max at the moment, it is a very fierce, competitive battle between the two for pole position and for race wins, and then you need to push hard to beat your teammate,” Wolff told journalists at the Red Bull Ring.
But it was time for the two drivers to take a step back and consider the team’s interests over their own, he added.
“The lesson for us is that there is not only your teammate. There are others out there who can be competitive – who can be competitive on one single weekend or who can stay competitive until the end of the season. And I think this is a moment to look at our system.”
Mercedes still lead the constructors’ standings by a wide margin, with 258 points and Red Bull on 139. But Rosberg and Hamilton’s refusal to settle for a mere podium and to always shoot for the win was causing them to maybe take too many risks.
“If your main enemy is your teammate, obviously you try to gain an advantage when it matters,” said Wolff. “We had a couple of races where we were the dominant force. And now you see we lost the last race to Red Bull. Here, we have [a different] team on pole.”
“I think you can’t, because you have a dominant car, just concentrate purely on this battle. It needs a bit of a wider view.”
Hamilton, a four-time winner this season, has been battling to close the 22-point gap on his teammate and rival. With two wins and five second-place, Rosberg leads the championship with 140 points. (AFP)