Toto Wolff demands total transparency between title rivals Hamilton and Rosberg
"We don’t want to see any sandbagging and aborted laps," warns chief
By James Galloway and Mike Wise
Last Updated: 26/06/14 10:32am
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has warned Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and their respective engineering crews to maintain an open flow of information after revealing “transparency is suffering a little bit” amid the team-mate’s tight title duel.
What looks certain to remain a private battle for the 2014 drivers’ crown between Rosberg and Hamilton continues to provide fascinating viewing, and require delicate managing by Mercedes, with the pair securing a one-two race finish for the sixth time this year in Sunday’s Austrian GP.
Rising tensions between the former karting team-mates blew up in public for the first time at last month’s Monaco GP, when Hamilton failed to back his team-mate after Rosberg ran off the road in qualifying and then claimed they were no longer friends.
And although the situation in public at least has appeared calmer after reconciliation between the pair post Monaco, Wolff hinted in Austria on Sunday night that the sharing of information and data between the two sides hadn’t been as open as it should have been earlier in the weekend.
“Our first priority must be to let the two compete against each other. They are on such a close level and we don’t want to interfere from the outside and manipulate it in one or the other direction. So the playing field must be kept equal, that’s for sure,” Wolff said when asked if the rise in competitiveness of Mercedes’ rivals would alter their approach to the championship.
“Nevertheless, yesterday [the team] had a bit of a moment. After P3 we weren’t in good shape and the atmosphere wasn’t like in the races before. We see that it’s getting very competitive, that transparency is suffering a little bit and we need to make sure that this is not detrimental to the team.”
Asked to give an example of the kind of transparency he was demanding was upheld, Wolff, while insisting he wasn’t referring to any particular incident, mentioned “sandbagging” in the early stages of a grand prix weekend as something he didn't want to see.
“Transparency is all about exchanging views and what the car does and learning from each other,” he added. “We obviously have to look very carefully at it, but we don’t want to keep the lap which is the lap which is showing how capable the car is until the final qualifying because we need to understand where we can improve the car. That is one of the examples.
“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 Austrian insisted that it was vital that the whole outfit were pulling in the same direction if Mercedes’ dominance at the start of F1’s new era was to prove long-lasting.
“We need the knowledge of the whole group, we need the whole group working together. It’s not only the drivers, it’s also the engineers of both sides of the garage. This is the spirit we want to maintain,” Wolff explained.
“It’s not about winning the next couple of races, but hopefully staying competitive the next couple of years. Therefore every race we need to learn and we can only learn if we’re having an open and transparent way of working with each other.”
Wolff acknowledged that the drivers and the team had contrasting primary objectives for 2014 and suggested the Brackley outfit needed to continue to manage the situation closely until the team’s target – the Constructors’ title – was secured.
“Obviously the drivers, their main objective is about winning the Drivers’ Championship. Our main agenda is about winning the Constructors’ Championship and making sure that one of the drivers wins the Drivers’ Championship,” Wolff said.
“So maybe first we need to win the Constructors’ and then we can unleash them.”
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And although committed to providing both Hamilton and Rosberg with an equal chance to end the year as World Champion, Wolff hopes Mercedes aren’t on the receiving end of a harsh lesson from history by the end of the campaign.
“We must expect tension to creep in,” he said.
“In the past most of the systems came back to a number one and number two driver. We are still in the situation that we believe in equal status because it’s what we think our racing philosophy and spirit should be – and not only for Mercedes but Formula 1 in general.
“But we could well be finding out at a certain stage that the intelligent guys in the last 30 years had a reason why they did it. I hope we are never going to find that out and we never need to find that out, but it could well be. But, as I said before, we are not having any issues until now. It is all running in the way we expected but we need to monitor it.”