Lewis Hamilton & Nico Rosberg's title duel tipped to go to wire again
Wolff says he had no doubts Rosberg would respond to Hamilton
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 25/06/15 9:56am
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg’s battle for the world championship will again go down to the wire in Abu Dhabi, their Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has predicted.
What had in the early rounds of the 2015 campaign looked set to be a title race firmly controlled by reigning champion Hamilton has in more recent races developed into an all-Mercedes duel reminiscent of last season with Rosberg winning three of the last four races.
With Hamilton’s lead now trimmed to 10 points ahead of next week’s British GP, Wolff believes Rosberg’s convincing win in Austria proves the dominant battle in F1 over the last 18 months remains firmly alive and will run all the way to November's Abu Dhabi finale.
“Sometimes we had people saying ‘has Nico surrendered?’ and I was always repeating that he’s mentally very strong and I have no doubt that the battle is going to go down to the wire,” Wolff told Sky Sports News HQ.
“They are so close to each other performance-wise. It’s my opinion, because there are no double points this year, it could be until the last race [before the title is decided].”
As Rosberg only picked up the victory in Monaco when Mercedes erroneously pitted runaway race leader Hamilton, May’s Spanish GP had been the only time in 2015 when the German had outqualified and outraced his team-mate and chief rival.
Qualifying Three aside in Austria, however, it was Rosberg who proved the quicker of the two Mercedes’ throughout the weekend and Wolff was left impressed by the 29-year-old’s performance.
“The Sunday counts, but when you look at qualifying, throughout the sessions, he seemed to have the edge. There was just one lap where Lewis got in front of him where he struggled with the understeer and that was the final lap that was for grid position because both of them made a mistake in the last one,” the Austrian recalled when later speaking to reporters.
“So I thought he was very good throughout the weekend and you could see that probably in a very obvious way in the race today.”
After finishing behind his stable-mate for the second successive year at the Red Bull Ring, Hamilton himself acknowledged Rosberg “was quicker in the race” with the Briton having seemingly not been completely at home in his W06 around the deceptively challenging circuit all weekend.
Asked why Hamilton appeared a little off form, Wolff replied: “I can’t really tell you. That is a particular circuit and very different from all the others – with very different tarmac. I think it’s just very close between the two of them. We’ve seen that last year that it can vary who has the edge.”
Hamilton’s already uphill challenge for victory was effectively ended after the sole round of stops when he strayed over the white line at the pit lane exit – a transgression which resulted in five seconds being added to his final race time.
Wolff doesn’t believe the unusual mistake for such a leading driver to make was a sign of pressure, but acknowledges his two drivers are challenging each other as hard as ever at the moment.
“I don’t think they are feeling the overall pressure of the overall championship yet, but they are definitely pushing very hard to beat each other," he added.
“You rarely see someone coming with locked and smoking wheels into the stands because you could well miss the line and get a penalty – and equally on the exit. I think it’s just the result of a fierce battle between the two of them.”