Toto Wolff admits Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement has “compromised” Mercedes, but believes the team will need to be brave when selecting a replacement driver.
Rosberg only made the decision to retire from Formula 1 following the final race of the season, with the German winning the drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi at the end of November. Rosberg informed Mercedes motorsport boss Wolff of his choice last Wednesday, leaving Mercedes needing to find a new teammate for Lewis Hamilton in 2017 despite the majority of drivers being under contract.
The Mercedes executive director believes his team will now have to take a risk due to the limited options he has at his disposal.
“Clearly, with Nico taking the decision quite late we are in a bit of a compromised situation, because if we had known three months ago there were more options available,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “Maybe we need to make a brave decision in the same way Nico has made a brave decision.
“We need the quickest guy who makes the least mistakes and understands that this is a team game.”
With Mercedes winning the last three consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships, Wolff admits it will be difficult to find a replacement for Rosberg who can make the same contribution to the team moving forward.
“It is about out-and-out pace. Mistakes are a different topic. Only on very few occasions have we seen Lewis or Nico making a mistake or colliding. More than 90 percent of the races we’ve been able to score maximum points, so that is a consideration.
“Then, the out-and-out pace in order to challenge Lewis and grow the general performance within the team. We need somebody that goes lightning fast. To combine all those three factors is what Nico has been able to do over the years.
“We will not change the philosophy. We want to have two drivers with equal opportunities that can race each other, because I think we owe that to the fans and ourselves. It’s the way we want racing to happen.”
Wolff conceded that it will be difficult to match the line-up he had, though.
“[Rosberg] will leave a very big gap, because he was not only a very fast driver, but he was able to push Lewis,” Wolff added. “They pushed each other and were therefore really able to perform well and score our goals for victories. On a bad day for Lewis, Nico was able to pull out great performances and vice versa.
“His technical ability in giving us directions being part of the development work of the car, that’s a part we are going to greatly miss. Whoever is going to replace Nico needs to fill those big shoes.”