Hamilton and Rosberg could be allowed to fight
Merc boss admits he may have to let his drivers choose their own strategies and battle it out on track if they continue to dominate
Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has raised the possibility of letting Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg off the leash completely should the team’s dominance continue this year.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner, Wolff’s political and competitive rival, has claimed that Mercedes’ superiority is damaging interest in F1, and Wolff now acknowledges he has a point.
“Our dominance is bad for Formula 1,” Wolff told The Mail on Sunday. “It is. It makes the racing boring. The result becomes predictable. The sport needs multiple winners. It needs the odd freak result. It needs the underdog to win. The moment you become a dominant force, you suffer and your brand suffers.”
Wolff and Mercedes have so far operated a policy of allowing their drivers to race while giving them both as close to the optimum strategy as possible. This has often led to them being close on track but unable to race one another because the driver in front, with first call on pitstop timing, has a small but crucial advantage: in the Pirelli era, stopping first is worth between two and five seconds over a driver behind.
Wolff says that if Mercedes remain dominant, he may have to re-think this policy: “I want the dominance to continue bu, if it were to continue like this I need to think what to do so we do not become the enemy, and how we can help the show. Maybe it’s about unleashing the two of them completely. Make them have their own strategy. That would be a solution.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff: “I need to think what to do so we do not become the enemy”
This raises the prospect of the team allowing a more naked fight, with the drivers and their respective engineers allowed to compete against each other and devise alternate strategies.
Wolff added: “It might have a new dimension. I want to contain it. I don’t want fighting in the team. I’d like the boxers to fight, but not the trainers and the physios and everybody around the ring. I’d like the boxers to behave like boxers, who fight very hard, but after the fight has finished you can be a sportsman and embrace your enemy. But it is easy when it is theory.”
His comments were made in the context of his warning at the final race of the season that if he felt the rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg was bad for the team, he may have to drop one of them. Rosberg’s contract runs out at the end of 2016, while last season Hamilton signed a new three-year deal that ties him to Mercedes until the end of 2018.