Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that he sometimes managed the tensions between Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg with an “iron fist” to ensure they both respected the team.
Wolff said he felt there was “some selfish behaviour” by Mercedes’ drivers – and he was prepared to take action to ensure the team’s interests were always put first.
“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,” Wolff said on the High Performance Podcast.
“But still I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team, sometimes with an iron fist, and they understood 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 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 going to change the way you act. You’re not going to put your team-mate 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,” the Austrian added.
Hamilton and Rosberg, who had raced each other since go-karts, found themselves in the same team in Formula One when the Brit joined Mercedes as Michael Schumacher’s replacement in 2013.
The following year, the beginning of F1’s V6 turbo-hybrid era which Mercedes have dominated, showed the first signs of tensions between the Silver Arrows’ drivers.
This intra-team rivalry led to a very negative atmosphere within the team, Wolff said, and continued until 2016, when Rosberg retired from the sport after winning that year’s Championship.
“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 said.
“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.
“That’s why it is something we are looking at – how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure of one and the other,” he added.