DECEMBER 14, 2015
Mercedes drivers understand team axe warning says Wolff
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff thinks the dominant team's two drivers have heard his warning about the intensity of their feud.
As the 2015 season ended recently with the silver camp sweeping 16 of the 19 wins, Wolff nonetheless warned that if Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's bickering spills into the overall "team spirit", Mercedes would have to make a change.
"The drivers know what I meant," Wolff said at the weekend at Mercedes' end-of-year 'Stars and Cars' event in Stuttgart, when asked about his recent comments.
"The spirit of the team is essential -- it is one of the qualities that makes us what we are now."
Nico Rosberg, however, said he thinks that spirit is intact, adding: "I have to thank Toto for his great management. If he has a few extra grey hairs, I guess that is our fault!"
And Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport also quoted world champion Lewis Hamilton as adding: "I very much agree with Nico -- I don't think there was anything negative about our competition this year.
"We will continue to communicate and correct ourselves if there are problems -- but there isn't a problem," said the Briton.
Wolff, meanwhile, continued: "We do not want this to be understood in any way as us limiting the duel between Lewis in Nico. Our philosophy was clear that we wanted to have two top drivers in the team in order to win the world championship.
"But although we are very competitive, it is important to know how to contain the situation and prevent damage to the team," he added.
Finally, Hamilton spoke about his mysterious end-of-year form slump, in which Rosberg rounded out the season with a hat-trick of dominant wins from pole.
"Actually I look at it as a blessing in disguise," he is quoted as saying.
"If I had won them, I would have had so many wins in the season and I might have approached next one with less of a buzz," said Hamilton.
Trying to explain the reason for the slump, meanwhile, he added: "I'm sure it was a combination of things.
"First there is the great job done by Nico, then I believe he adapted very well to the changes to the car, and once I won the championship - although I was still pushing - maybe subconsciously I was a bit more relaxed," he said.