‘Iron fisted’ Wolff threatened to bench Hamilton and Rosberg over collisions

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff reveals how an “iron fist” was needed to keep Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in line during their four-year stint as team mates at Mercedes.

In brief

Wolff: “Iron fist” needed with Hamilton and Rosberg

Wolff joined Mercedes after Hamilton had been hired as team mate to Rosberg. The pair had driven for the same team in karting over a decade earlier and Wolff admitted there was “negativity” between them at times following their reunion.

“I couldn’t change it because the drivers were hired before I came,” he told the High Performance Podcast. “Nobody actually thought, what is the dynamic between the two? What is the past between the two? I mean, there was a lot of historical context that nobody of us knew and will never know.”

The two drivers clashed at times as Mercedes dominated the 2014 season, notably at Spa, which left Hamilton with a punctured tyre and handed victory to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. “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,” said Wolff.

“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.

“When the events of 2014 [happened] 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. And I always made clear that if this were to happen regularly and I would see a pattern, I have no fear in making somebody miss races.”

Rosin dismisses innuendo over Schumacher’s F3 title

Feature: Michael and Mick Schumacher – Their different routes to Formula 1
The remarkable mid-season turnaround which put Mick Schumacher on a path to win the 2018 Formula 3 championship attracted considerable speculation at the time. Having failed to score a victory over the first 14 races, the Prema driver won half of the remaining 16 and clinched the title. Dan Ticktum, who saw Schumacher and his Prema team mate Robert Shwartzman ease past him in the points standings, suggested at the time they may have “a special engine map or something”.

Prema team principal Rene Rosin rubbished those claims in a recent interview for GP Racing magazine. “The comments were inappropriate,” he said. “If somebody had a doubt about the legality of the car, the legality of the engine, they had all the rights to make all the protests they want. Nobody made a protest.”

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Comment of the day

Lando Norris shouldn’t get carried away with the progress McLaren have made, warns @Spoutnik:

Norris finished 46 seconds behind Hamilton, about half a lap (2.7 km – or about 1.7 miles). So he’s not wrong per se but it isn’t exactly close, Bottas still having a comfortable free pitstop.

It’s nice to see their confidence but it’s still a long way to go.
@Spoutnik

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On this day in F1

  • 25 years ago today Damon Hill put his Williams on pole position for the Argentinian Grand Prix at Buenos Aires

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  • 54 comments on “‘Iron fisted’ Wolff threatened to bench Hamilton and Rosberg over collisions”

    1. Scotty (@rockonscotty)
      6th April 2021, 1:25

      Gorgeous livery for JPM!

      1. Agreed, it is a proper livery.

        1. That being said, Meeeoww!

      2. I was thinking that. The car looks great.

    2. The lack of need for an ‘iron fist’, is why I suspect we’ll see Bottas alongside Lewis until Lewis decides to call it a day. Until then, Bottas ticks all the boxes and doesn’t rock the boat. As much as we fans would like to see a fight, if we were in Toto’s shoes, we’d probably do the same.

      1. Which will only be to the end of this year. Hamilton knows the new regs mean he might not have a dominant car next year. He doesn’t want to be shown up. Last time he didn’t have a dominant car in F1 he didn’t finish any higher than 4th in the WDC. Same the year before that and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that. Half a decade of no higher than 4th in the WDC until he was rescued by Mercedes.

        1. He signed for Mercedes at the end of 2012, that year they only finished 5th in the WCC two places lower than McLaren. Hamilton had no idea if Mercedes would come good or not, so in reality he wasn’t really rescued by Mercedes, he acted on what turned out to be good advice from Niki Lauda and Ross Brawn, took the gamble and it paid off, I’m not disputing he has had the best equipment since 2014 but nobody knew in 2012/2013 that Mercedes would eventually be so successful.

          Reply moderated
        2. Managed to secure race wins in all those seasons though, despite not having the “dominant car”……

          1. Securing a race win is not the same as doing good in a sub-par car. Alonso managed to finish 2nd in the WDC three times in a Ferrari against the mighty Redbulls in the V8 Era, even the hot-tempered Vettel managed to be twice runner up against the mighty Mercedes in the V6 era.

            Lewis after 2008 finished 4th and 5th for 5 years straight. He is just a guy who NEEDS a dominant car to win a WC or fight for one. He is just so lucky that Bottas is a useless driver the bend over anytime the team ask him to.

            1. Yeah sure, Sir Lewis is just an average driver who needs better equipment than the opposition. Laughable.
              What have you been watching for the last 13 years.

            2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
              6th April 2021, 11:57

              Ok, clearly biased against a factual analysis but try to follow. Did Lewis have a dominant car in 2007 when he was runner up by a point, or 2008 when he won? No. The Ferrari and McLaren were evenly matched. So he almost won then won in a not dominant car. Stating “since 2008” leaves out some pretty significant statistics when building your case which indicates a bias in what you want the outcome to be.

              Let’s take Alonso who you cite as doing better. Lewis beat him as a rookie. Another fact you conveniently leave out. Again bias. Yes, towards the end of the season Ron wanted Hamilton to win but the cars were the same and the mechanics and engineers gave no preferential treatment to either as stated by Marc Priestley who was a mechanic for McLaren at the time. Now why did Ron want Lewis to win after signing Alonso to get him the championship and taking a risk with Lewis as a rookie? Because Alonso tried to blackmail Ron into giving him number one driver status. Why did Alonso want number one status? Because he couldn’t beat Lewis on track and had to do an off track manoeuvre, which he got spectacularly wrong. Lets not forget Lewis was leading the championship until mid season against a 2 time WDC team mate, the previous darling of McLaren, Kimi and Schumi’s protégé Massa. That’s some pretty stiff competition.

              Yet you claim all that talent disappeared after 2008? Again, going back to Alonso. In a 2021 pre season interview he states that 2012 was his best year, his peak. So he beat Schumi, lost to Lewis and then peaked. Lewis peaked in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. In other words, his peak keeps getting higher. He just beat Max in a slower car.

              There is nobody serious that can say Lewis doesn’t keep improving year on year. Button said of him he had terrible tyre management and if he ever worked properly with his engineers we might as well all go home. (In his book) Lewis now works very well with his engineers and is a master at tyre management.

              That talent that was evident in 2007 and 2008 is still there and then some. To argue otherwise is obtuse and factually incorrect.

        3. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          6th April 2021, 10:09

          @nick101 Few things.
          1. 2007 / 2008 McLaren was not a dominant car and for much of the two seasons the Ferrari had the edge. He missed the WDC by one point in his rookie year and won a WDC without a dominant car in his second. Your argument is dead in the water from the very beginning of his career but I’ll go on anyway.

          2. That’s a hell of a lot of poles and wins for an average driver in a not dominant car between 2007 and 2014.

          3. Comparing against his team mate, Hamilton beat his in….. 2007,2008,2009,2010,2012,2013,2014,2015,2017,2018,2019,2020 so he is nothing except incredibly consistent.

          4. Alonso in a recent interview has said he peaked in 2012 and that was his best season in F1. It took him eleven years to get there. Hamilton beat him as a rookie and most people will admit Hamilton from 2017 to date is only now reaching his peak so if Hamilton is not a great driver, Alonso is also not that great. You can’t have it both ways. He is also weaker than Hamilton on one lap pace and maintaining good relations with teams, note McLaren disintegration, Ferrari meltdown, Honda blow-up costing him a competitive Indycar drive. He’s inferior to Hamilton.

          Schumi, Hamilton and Verstappen all stand out as the very best. None of them have made the number of errors Vettel has made on track and Alonso has made off it.

          Schumi never had a mentally weak season as Hamilton did in 2011 or let his team mate get the upper hand as Hamilton did in late 2015, early 2016 but Schumi also never had a WDC as a team mate. Verstappen didn’t have as much F1 experience as Hamilton when he started but then again Hamilton never had an F1 driver and a carting champion as coaches from day one.

          You can argue who’s best but you cannot with a sane head argue Hamilton is not one of them.

          1. @davewillisporter Regarding Alonso, I think I too heard him say he thought 2012 was his best season. We often hear of drivers highlighting certain seasons as to when they thought they were really gelling with the car, even if it wasn’t the WCC car, and were really proud of the way they worked the car and it’s setups etc, and perhaps even outdrove the car, and showed themselves something within themselves they perhaps didn’t know they had. That kind of stuff.

            My question though…Did he really say he “peaked” in 2012? Or is that your interpretation when he highlights 2012 as his best season. I mean really, you’d think his WDC seasons were quite “peakey” too, or also amongst his best, and I’m sure they were, but just wondering if he actually has said he peaked in 2012. Glad to stand corrected on this, but I’d be really surprised if he actually used those words, as to me it connotes ‘it’s all downhill from here’ lol.

        4. Overall I think both sides make good points, don’t agree with saying nick has hamilton hatred: certainly hamilton did well in 2007 and 2008 with the joint-best car, and mathematical models even give the edge to ferrari for the best car contest in those seasons, but he also didn’t perform as well as alonso did in the following years, before he moved to mercedes.

          A thing I’m getting annoyed by however, by the hamilton defenders, is that you keep saying he beat alonso in 2007, in your book getting the same points as the other driver but being classified ahead is beating? That’s a very fringy definition, I’d say he matched alonso in his first season, which is still an achievement but not the same.

          I think hamilton improved a lot in 2018, he became more consistent even when things didn’t necessarily go his way, instead of giving up in such races, in 2017 imo he performed similarly to vettel, and even if vettel hadn’t started a super series of mistakes in 2018 the step forward hamilton made would’ve seen him beat him.

      2. Bottas ticks all the boxes and doesn’t rock the boat

        Well, he hasn’t so far @bernasaurus but there’s still a season (maybe his final season?) to play out! I don’t expect Bottas to indulge in anything like the antics Rosberg got up to in his attempts to needle Hamilton. However, if Red Bull and Verstappen do mount a serious challenge, and Bottas believes he’s on his way out, we might see him just doing his own thing rather than help the team or specifically Hamilton to win the title. It’s one of this season’s potential developing stories. In fact there’s a lot of unpredictability all round to look forward to, with all the teams and drivers (and their contracts) jostling for 2022.

        1. Bottas has got a fire lit under him now!

          1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
            6th April 2021, 10:19

            @ferrox-glideh Is that why he keeps melting his tyres at the end of races LOL! Bottas is fast and he has fight but he just lacks the in race toolbox that Hamilton has. Rosberg sez you can’t beat Lewis without getting in his head, which he learned from having Schumi as a team-mate. Bottas won’t do that, which I respect him for but unless he does he will never beat Lewis.

      3. Wolff said he has no idea where the feud between Hamilton and Rosberg came from, as if he was on another planet during the Hamilton-Alonso one, or even during the non-feud between Rosberg and Schumacher for that matter.

        But interesting how he says he couldn’t change out drivers when he arrived since they were hired before his time, as if he clearly wanted to, but couldn’t. Not that I believe for a moment he couldn’t change drivers, and not for a moment did I believe he was behind both drivers equally as he said which is now confirmed by practically admitting he really wanted to get rid of one.

        As for the historical context between the two, they were friends (until one said they never had been).

        1. @balue I think you have a lot of misinterpretations in what you are saying of what TW said. He is not saying he has no idea where their feud came from, but just that he/we couldn’t possibly know all the details. I think we all know enough from what they have said of it, that suffice it to say they were friends off the track from a young age, but of course rivals starting on the go-cart track as all drivers always have to be, and from all accounts LH usually had the upper hand even before F1. Once they got to F1, and especially on a top team together, and then especially once they became dominant and were locking out the front row every race, well of course I think we all know that that alone makes for a viscous rivalry, and then for them there was the long history between each other that only they are the most intimate with.

          When TW says he arrived to F1 with both drivers having been already on the team, and they with more experience than him in F1, he is not saying he wanted to change them out, but he is saying that nobody vetted them or put any thought into what the dynamic might be like. But I’m not sure anybody would have changed their driver decision had they done that anyway, for it would have been hard to predict that they were going to be in dominant cars locking out front rows race after race and season after season. You are taking complete license in assuming TW really wanted to get rid of one, and what really proves that is that during 2016 when the were having their neck and neck WDC battle which Nico ultimately won, Nico was re-signed to go through 2018 with them. ie. TW wanted more of the rivalry, not less, and could have not re-signed Nico at that time. That Nico retired is neither here nor there to this discussion.

          I am absolutely convinced TW treated both drivers equally, even though admittedly I think it was Nico who he had to have the more iron fist with, and that in spite of LH repeatedly publicly claiming the team wanted Nico to win.

          1. No, Wolff tries to make out that the cause of the feud was some ‘never to be known’ history between the drivers which is obviously fake. If anything their history would tell of a great pairing as they were competitors and friends at the same time which is a very rare thing in any circumstance so not something where one would point the finger as the natural cause of the feud. You obviously don’t need history to feud at all as most feuds in history has shown. Hamilton feuded with Alonso and there was zero history there. It’s a complete non-story and a diversion from Wolff who now is team partner and buddy of one of them and will of course make up diplomatic cover stories like this.

            About him not wanting the pairing, it’s obvious when he’s stating what he’s always been saying about the importance of team dynamics. It clearly didn’t work here, so he was against it, meaning he wanted to change, meaning he wanted one out. The ‘treating equally’ that you talk about is something different altogether.

            1. @balue I disagree.

    3. The Toto Wolf interview for the High Performance Podcast is excellent, I highly recommend it. There’s also a version on Youtube.

    4. @bernasaurus Russell’s contract with Williams ends this year and I think he’ll start at Merc in 2022. While Merc will try to help Bottas do a Raikkonen with a move to another team.

      1. @johnrkh How could Mercedes directly help Bottas get a drive elsewhere?

        1. Cristiano Ferreira
          6th April 2021, 8:00

          If Vettel suddenly decides to retire or take a sabatical, Bottas could end up in Aston Martin. After all AM is a Merc B team.

        2. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          6th April 2021, 10:21

          @jerejj easy. Swap George for Bottas at Williams. That’s probably the only option unless Seb continues his slide towards irrelevance. Personally I feel if Bottas doesn’t beat Lewis this year, which he won’t, he’ll go rallying rather than slide down the grid.

          1. @davewillisporter Unless he’d be unwilling for a Williams return. I also bet he’d more likely go rallying or do something else than continue in F1 merely for making up the numbers.

            1. Well, he gets several millions a year, that’s not too bad.

      2. But if Hamilton retires do they want to get rid of Bottas. Russel can replace Hamilton but who can take Bottas’ seat?

    5. I also find the behaviour of the Prema cars and the team itself suspicious. I watch all the feeder series where they participate and I have been thinking this for some time.

      1. Actually i always thought this of Prema most years i followed the series. While Mick is a slow starter his finishing was a extreme curve even more then his F4-F3 series.

    6. Wow, just… wow! That orange-white-black livery is way sexier than MCL35M.

    7. So Albon fears his passport gets lost if he keeps it in Airports. I definitely do.

      COTD: 100% agreed. Too early for getting carried away.

    8. Re Wolff: I would have slammed the desk heavily if I was him.
      Re F3: Ticktum make a false claim and he’s still not quitting? Ticktum, Quit Now.

    9. FOR SALE: One (1) bridge. Contact T.Wolff, Brackley.

      If there was ever a serious threat to “bench” a driver for colliding with his teammate, it would surely have happened after Spain 2016.

      1. he said pattern, probably meaning something happens consistently or frequently. Something like Spain 2016 never happened after that.

    10. Yes Mr Rosin, everything was legal. It’s just a coincidence in different championship, yet another Schumacher’s rival said he was losing 3 tenths on straights, in apparently spec formula cars equipped with equal engines. Indeed, history of motorsport is full of these coincidences, sudden surges in performance or drivers seemingly forgetting how to drive.

      1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
        6th April 2021, 10:25

        @armchairexpert You could say the same thing about Hamilton Turkey 2006 in GP2. He appeared to be much faster on the straights than anyone else but he had asked his team to give him the skinniest rear wing possible as he was starting from reverse grid 8th after winning the previous race. Details destroy conspiracies.

      2. The thing is, there are some who wonder if Ticktum’s complaints were more about stopping people focussing on his slump in form by accusing other teams of cheating.

        After all, his own team mate, Vips, was still able to win races, and basically ended up being given Ticktum’s place in the Red Bull academy as his performance also improved markedly in the latter part of the season, allowing him to overtake Ticktum in the championship.

      3. @armchairexpert Who was it, Shwartzman? If not I don’t see how Prema would engineer a horsepower deficit for another team. Ilott? I’d argue the most suspicious thing in F2 in 2020 was the race pace of the UNI Virtuosi’s, both Zhou and Ilott were often able to push for almost the entire length of a race distance while other teams needed to slow down. Tsunoda? He didn’t have engine issues at all, it was in fact his teammate Daruvala who did.

    11. I said, the next time you come close to the other car, your team mate, you think about the Mercedes brand.

      And that’s exactly why Rosberg kept going for those desperate moves keeping his nose stuck in when he had already lost the position again Hamilton (against other drivers he know not to do that). Further flaming the animosity between the drivers and reflecting poorly on the image for Mercedes.

    12. Graham (@guitargraham)
      6th April 2021, 11:13

      there are many stories/rumours about the way the Rosbergs conducted themselves on Nico’s rise to F1. The Britney nickname Nico had at Williams was in no way a term of endearment or meant as a joke. At one point i swear there was almost a “Victim of the Rosbergs” support group in the paddock. Lewis and SebV’s friendship started out because of this when they were very young. AMG have done a LOT of work in the past to ensure these stories stay buried…at least whilst Keke’s still alive. Find anyone who was in the paddock circa in the early 2000s, buy them a drink, and ask them: you’ll be in for quite a shock. i was amazed when i heard at spa in ’12 that Lewis and Nico were going to be teammates again. shocked even. i wondered if the removal of Keke and Anthony Hamilton (some fiery tempers there boys and girls) from the toxic mixture would help the sons get along better but alas they just carried on where they’d left off when they were teenagers. Toto had an impossible job keeping the peace there.

      1. @guitargraham Such as? Unless it’s sabotage of a team mate’s car, I’m not sure what he said / she said rumour really add. Unpleasant and personally revealing sure, but they are plenty of other people to add to the unpleasant pile in Formula 1. The fact is we saw the Rosberg-Hamilton feud on track and in the press comments of both. The on track dispute was good, the off-track dispute unedifying and immature. I’m not sure I want to know about a whole ton more of the same. I’ve always thought the Button-Rosberg line of ‘beating Lewis off track’ reflected much worse on them, but only because it was an admission that they weren’t really good enough to be at the front of Formula 1. You can’t imagine Senna, or Verstappen, or even Alonso saying something similar. They believed or believe they’ll win by being faster. Not because they’d manage to create a toxic work environment.

        1. Dave (@davewillisporter)
          6th April 2021, 17:35

          @david-br Well, except Alonso in 2007 blackmailing Ron to make him official number one and Lewis number two because he couldn’t do it on the track!

      2. @guitargraham Does sound like stories and rumours, and as to your last sentence, well, it wasn’t impossible, TW managed the situation very well, we got a great show, and keep in mind he had already re-signed Nico for two more years of it during Nico’s WDC year. How bad could it have been? The fact is we all know that if you have two guys both getting poles and wins in their WDC capable cars it’s going to get tense between them, and of course especially when the two drivers have a history pre-F1. TW has said similarly of VB that if he is to really challenge LH the gloves will have to come off. VB doesn’t seem to have it in him and perhaps part of the reason is he doesn’t have that history to motivate him.

    13. Gavin Campbell
      6th April 2021, 13:04

      However great Lewis is – he is 36 years old. With all the success how long will he continue, how hungry is he? Lewis has always struck me as someone who is there for the competition – not driving the cars per sae (IE Kimi Raikkonen or Valentino Rossi on bikes – They just love racing/driving/riding).

      If Hamilton wins another WDC he moves the bar clear of everyone – most championships, wins, poles, points, laps lead etc. At 37 or 38 will he continue to spend nearly every summer weekend of his life at race tracks?

      Mercedes need to risk upsetting the apple cart to have their succession plan in place. The obvious choice for that is George Russell who looks for all the world a top tier pilot. But they need time to bail out of that plan if he turns out to be “only” very good rather than great. Russell on the otherhand can’t afford to spend much more time marking his card at the back of the grid.

      If Merc don’t see Bottas as a potential lead driver there really isn’t a reason to keep him beyond this season (although it depends how “bumpy” the world still is as you need a full pre-season including factory time for any new driver). Russell has been around the team for a while and surely would be no worse than Bottas.

      The only way that Bottas stays at Mercedes is if Lewis signs something like a 4 year deal or decides to go at the end of this year (which I don’t see happening – surely he wouldn’t leave to empty stands and a few hand claps from the mechanics?)

    14. Dave (@davewillisporter)
      6th April 2021, 17:39

      Yup. Only way Bottas is keeping his seat is if Lewis retires. Toto has to sign George for 2022 or risk being disloyal to him which Toto won’t do. He’s been loyal to Bottas up to a point but if Perez starts finishing ahead and Redbull run them close or even take the constructors this year, after 5 seasons, Toto can feel like he’s given Bottas enough of a chance.

      1. I don’t trust toto on this though, I think he really wants a number 1 and 2 and he has that with bottas, he wouldn’t have that with russel.

      1. sorry I got the link wrong the first time, @keithcollantine could you delete that and this reply? thanks

        1. Keith, I’m going to need you to go ahead and delete that post on Saturday.

          1. Uh, Keith, do you copy, over?

            Comm check. I cannot hear you, can you hear me?

            No, I’m still not hearring you.

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