There’s been some very critical comments from Mercedes Boss Toto Wolff regarding the Hamilton/Rosberg rivalry that the team tried and failed to manage last season. He claims that it was Rosberg who was the vicious one in the garage despite popular belief that Hamilton played the mind games.
Toto Wolff on the rivalry of the Silver Arrows last season and which driver caused the trouble, Toto Wolff said,
“The one who is no longer here. The vicious one. Nico just tried to use all the weapons he had. There were all the psycho games that you can play to destabilise your rival.
Each year there was a biggie that had a major impact on their relationship. When you operate at that high level as a sportsman you are certainly sensitive. Both were. It affected them both.”
– Toto Wolff
Rosberg and Hamilton made up a fierce rivalry at Mercedes over three seasons as teammates–with last season’s battle a boiling point that the team couldn’t fully manage, and internal relations between both drivers were untenable.
The question is, if Hamilton had retired in 2016, would Wolff now be claiming that it was him that caused all of the issues? It makes sense for Wolff to assign blame to the driver that’s no longer part of the team. It’s an easy cop-out on a situation that clearly wasn’t as black and white as he is making out. On the other hand, it could be entirely true. There hasn’t been much reporting around sour dynamics between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas this year.
Bizarrely, when Rosberg responded to Wolff’s criticism, he didn’t outright deny that it was the case.
“This chapter is closed for me. It’s funny because it just doesn’t affect me. I won my battle. I just hope we can laugh together again one day.”
– Nico Rosberg
The 2016 World Champion’s absence from the grid means that no driver in the current field has won around the Baku circuit, meaning that we will see a maiden Azerbaijani win in the next Grand Prix. Hamilton fell foul of the radio regulations last season when the pit-wall was unable to give him instructions on how to fix a glitchy steering wheel. The Brit is only 12-points adrift of Vettel in the standings after a commanding performance in Montreal. Carrying that form to Baku will be crucial to Mercedes beating Ferrari.
Wolff didn’t need to be as critical about Rosberg as he was to the press, whether or not there is complete truth to his comments will be challenged this weekend. Expect Hamilton to get bombarded with the quote in the press pen for a response.