Toto Wolff said that he made it clear to his previous driver pair, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, that he had no fear making one of them miss races should their actions on track impact the team.
Speaking to Jake Humphrey on The High Performance Podcast, Wolff reflected on the time when Hamilton shared the Mercedes garage with 2016 champion Rosberg. The Austrian clearly wasn’t satisfied with the detrimental effect their volatile relationship had on the team’s environment and told them as much.
“I’m not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player,” Wolff 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.”
The Austrian highlighted that he had no choice on the driver pairing within the team at that time.
“I couldn’t change it, because the drivers were hired before I came,” he said.
“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,” the Mercedes team boss added.
“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.”
He further admitted that he had to be resolute in his approach at some point to keep things within the team in check.
”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,” he explained.
“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.”
Interestingly though, it seems that the rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg is not waning. This time however, it has been reignited away from the F1 paddock, as each of the ex-teammates is now fielding his own team in the new Extreme E off-road series. Rosberg dealt the first blow as his team won the first race in Saudi Arabia last weekend.