Mercedes F1 Executive Director Toto Wolff admits that the team made mistakes in the team orders controversy in Hungary, and says that Nico Rosberg should not have been told that Lewis Hamilton was going to let him past.
Wolff says that the team will take extra care to be fair to both drivers in the future in similar situations after events were talked through by the drivers, Wolff and Paddy Lowe on Thursday.
“We spent a lot of time actually analyzing what happened, what went wrong, and what was right,” said Wolff on Saturday. “Because everything is multiplied within the media and from the fans of each other’s camps you need to be aware that every word you say is being scrutinized and analyzed. I think what happened was a pretty normal situation among teammates, that one is on a certain strategy, the other is on another strategy. Nico was running two places in front of Lewis when he got the call for changing the tires, he came out behind Lewis, and now the tricky bit starts.
“In any other team similar to ours you would make the driver in front aware that the guy behind him has another stop to do what then would happen is you just I think go in whatever way. But because the battle is so intense and it’s two number one drivers and not one it’s clear that you cannot expect the front guy to lift the throttle, brake, lose a couple of hundred metres, and probably jeopardize his own race massively.
“We still believe the principle is right of making the guy aware that the other guy has one more stop to go, and this is why you should let him go. What was being told to Nico was that Lewis is going to let him by, which is probably just not the right wording. Whether it was driven by instinct, or intellect, or following the procedures, I don’t know. But whatever Lewis said was right in my opinion. He said he can overtake me. He wouldn’t have made his life difficult – it’s probably the only thing you can expect from the guy in front. So we need to choose our words carefully, that’s what we must be aware of in the heat of the battle.”
Wolff says it’s inevitable that there will be more issues: “I think it wasn’t the last time we encountered some controversy between the two, and probably it wasn’t the last time we will have to learn, and learn on the job. So it stays exciting for us.”
When asked about how the Thursday meeting had progressed, Rosberg declined to comment, while Hamilton said it had been positive. Inevitably the speculation is that the Briton was happier with how things turned out, and Wolff admitted that a psychological battle is going on.
“This is not only a race on the track, this is a race off the track as well. Part of the race is positioning yourself and trying to make sure that you are in the best possible position within the relationships with the team and with everybody in order to get the best out of the team for yourself.
“I think it is completely normal for the race drivers, like any other individual, to have ups and downs. Sometimes you’re happier, next time you’re less happy. For us we have to make sure we extract the maximum from both of them. This is why we want to give them the environment and the support that they need to perform at their best.
“But we are also not in the let’s make everybody happy business. You need to take decisions, and if you take decisions sometimes it swings to one side, sometimes it swings to the other side. What we need to be is always fair, transparent and straightforward. This is the only way we can cope with the situation of having two number one drivers, the only way of managing it.”
A smiling Hamilton noted that the Thursday meeting had been “funny” but refused to elaborate, while Wolff was equally cagey when asked what Lewis had meant.
“I cannot really tell you more, because this is very, very internal between the drivers and us, and it would be unfair really to make fun of it. We are in good spirits…”