Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says the level of transparency between Formula 1 teammates and 2014 title rivals Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton “suffered” during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend.
The team failed to qualify on the front row of the grid for the first time this season at the Red Bull Ring, as Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas came to the fore. Wolff suggested the fact Williams was able to outqualify Mercedes with a slower car showed how the intense battle between Hamilton and Rosberg could leave the door open for rivals.
“Our first priority must be to let the two [drivers] compete against each other – we don’t want to interfere from the outside and manipulate it in one or the other direction,” said Wolff, whose drivers recovered to finish one-two in the race. “Nevertheless, after FP3 we weren’t in good shape, and the atmosphere wasn’t like in the races before: we see it’s getting very competitive, transparency is suffering a little bit, and we need to make sure this is not detrimental to the team.
“We need the whole group working together – the drivers and engineers from both sides of the garage – this is the spirit we want to maintain. It’s not about winning the next couple of races, but hopefully staying competitive for the next couple of years. Therefore, every race we need to learn, and we can only learn if we have an open and transparent way of working with each other.”
MANAGING DRIVERS IS KEY
Wolff said it would be crucial for Mercedes to manage Rosberg and Hamilton “in the right way,” to ensure they do not hold things back from the team in order to try to beat one another, amid suggestions that the pair have been aborting practice laps to avoid revealing their true performance level before Q3.
“It’s clearly becoming very competitive, and the longer we go into the season the more competitive it’s going to get,” he admitted. “Transparency is all about exchanging views and learning from each other.
“We have to look very carefully at it. We don’t want to keep the lap that shows how capable the car is until the final qualifying, because we need to understand where we can improve the car. I’m not saying this has happened, we just don’t want to see any sandbagging and aborted laps when we need to learn about the car.
“The drivers’ main agenda is winning the drivers’ championship; our agenda is about winning the constructors’ championship and making sure one of the drivers wins the drivers’ championship, so maybe first we need to win the constructors’ championship and then we can unleash them.”