MARCH 21, 2017
Rosberg-Hamilton relationship negative says Wolff
The intense relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had become "negative" for Mercedes.
That is the claim of Toto Wolff, as he puts a positive spin on the reigning world champions' new driver lineup of Hamilton alongside Valtteri Bottas.
The team boss insisted he was never really angry at Rosberg for suddenly calling it quits after winning the 2016 title, despite having a firm contract for 2017 and beyond.
"Not at all," Wolff told Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.
"I immediately tried to see the opportunity of the situation. On the one hand, Nico was a top performer who pushed himself and his teammate to top performances.
"On the other hand, the rivalry between him and Lewis had become so intense that it was a negative for the team," Wolff added.
"We always had to deal with the things that came up as a result of these animosities rather than taking care of performance issues, which was not good."
So although names like the fiery Fernando Alonso were mentioned to fill Rosberg's seat, Mercedes ultimate plumped for the quiet Finn Valtteri Bottas.
"I'm expecting some quieter times," admitted Wolff.
"But if Valtteri is really good and the two of them are close to each other, it can be just as difficult, I am under no illusions," he said. "Even Bottas knows that he has little time to prove himself.
"We cannot afford to put someone in the car who is not fast enough and doesn't push Lewis. But his personality played a role. Valtteri is extremely quiet, not political, not manipulative. Pairing him with Lewis is the right combination," Wolff insisted.
Indeed, it is character as well as inexperience that also played against Pascal Wehrlein getting the seat instead.
"He can drive a car very well but he is also an explosive character, like Mr Hamilton," said Wolff. "In the car that is quite positive, but in combination with Lewis we needed to take into consideration this explosiveness.
"There is one name from history in which there was a real explosion between two drivers. Our Spanish friend (Fernando Alonso) left us with these scars," Wolff added.