Mercedes F1 team to relax rules for driving rivals
Toto Wolff stood like a giant figure on the stage between his two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, keeping the peace. It might be his last telling contribution to their rivalry for some time.
Wolff promised to unleash his drivers, leaving them to their own devices amid a major clampdown on the involvement of the engineering boffins on the pit wall.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff towers over his drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg during the presentation of their new racecar earlier this year. Picture/AP.
He said: “With Nico and Lewis, we have been together for a couple of years and it functions pretty well. So we owe it to them and we owe it to F1 to just let them race. The ride is going to be a bit more difficult for the team sometimes, but that is -absolutely necessary.”
On paper, this is what Formula One needs.
Hamilton forecast drivers struggling to cope from the first race in Melbourne a week away, with errors aplenty.
As the world champion was demanding at the end of last season, they will have far greater latitude to decide their own strategy, only told when to change tyres on the lap they are due in the pits.And Wolff, the Mercedes head of motorsport, appears willing to let the two resume competition -without interference, reducing the “rules of engagement” the team had carefully mapped out for the pair over the last few seasons.
While Ferrari failed in testing to show enough promise to make this season an eagerly anticipated affair, if these twin predictions come to pass then it is some of the best news Formula One has had for months.
Not that Hamilton was excited by the whole thing.
The 31-year-old seemed bored yesterday in Mercedes’ so-called ‘hallowed halls’, a storage-facility-cum-museum, half paying attention to questions and often answering a different one from that which had been asked.But one probing question on the team radio crackdown did manage to provoke an interesting answer.
“It is a big change,” the three-time champion said. “Whether I agree with all of it or not, it’s definitely going to make it a lot harder. We have to memorise a lot more things.
“Sometimes you’ll see stickers in the car and on the steering wheel. Some of it is just to keep the car going. We’re all going to struggle in the first race in some way.”
Occasionally Wolff serves up a gem, including his warning at the end of last season that he may have to split up one of the most successful driver pairings in the sport’s history if their rivalry becomes detrimental to the team.But here he rowed back from that shot across the bows, instead vowing to give the two even greater freedom in their battle for the championship.
Is this not music to the ears of -Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari? “No. I don’t think so,” Wolff added. “We are reducing the rules of conduct, or framework, because we are more comfortable in working with each other.”
Mercifully we will finally have some answers to the questions surrounding the pair’s form when the season starts in Melbourne next weekend. We, like Hamilton, will be relieved the phoney war is nearly over too.