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Formula 1 | Wolff: Twice I almost banned a driver

Toto Wolff does not believe that a Formula 1 driver duel at Mercedes will escalate again like it did at Hamilton-Rosberg. At that time it almost came to an end.

In addition to the new cars, the 2022 Formula 1 season also has a number of new driver pairings to offer, of which the one at Mercedes will certainly attract the most attention. After all, newcomer George Russell made a lasting impression on his first race for the team.

Back then, at the Sakhir Grand Prix, he stood in for Lewis Hamilton, who was suffering from Corona, and would have almost won the race had it not been for a botched pit stop and finally a puncture, which threw him back to P9.

Almost everyone agrees on one point: the young Briton will pose a greater threat to his compatriot Hamilton in the same car than Russell’s predecessor Valtteri Bottas did. The last teammate who was able to put the seven-time Formula 1 champion under pressure was Nico Rosberg.

Wolff: There will be no hostility within the team

“It wasn’t just a rivalry,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff recalled in an interview with the “Daily Mail”. “There was a lot of hostility, and that’s not going to happen,” he says, referring to the new team constellation in 2022 with Hamilton and Russell.

“It’s about respecting each other and that can be difficult. Because if you’re driving in the same spot on the track, you’re going to meet at some point.”

“But there is an integrity that we expect, so nobody is ever bigger than the team. The drivers know that. They represent 2,000 people who work for us and 350,000 people who work for Mercedes,” Wolff appeals to responsibility the driver towards the team and the company.

Team boss almost went to extremes in 2014/16

The time that Hamilton and Rosberg fought each other for the title was also a tightrope walk for him. “I was about to put a driver on the bench when it came to Lewis and Rosberg. Twice. In 2014 and 2016,” admits the Austrian.

“I said I would decide within 48 hours if any of them would have to sit out. I still don’t know who it would have been. But that was a long time ago. Given the relationship I have with Lewis today, it’s unimaginable that something like this could happen now,” emphasizes the Mercedes team boss.

If he initially had to put Hamilton in his place and make it clear to him “that I would not allow the driver to do the team badly”, that is no longer an issue today: “We have moved away from it for a long time.”

Wolff has a lot of faith in Hamilton and Russell

“Nevertheless, I would not hesitate in the future: if a driver spoke badly about the team or behaved inappropriately, I would first deal with it internally and if that didn’t work, I would take the driver out of the car and put him on the road Put the bench on the bench, yes,” confirms Wolff.

And he adds: “I don’t think it would ever be Lewis. He’s a team member, not a contract worker or a driver who comes and goes. We’ve been working together since 2013. We know each other so well, there’s so much trust and respect.”

Nor does Wolff expect that such problems will arise with Russell. “He’s an intelligent young man. He will fit into the team, but that doesn’t mean he has to hold back when driving. You can’t expect a lion to get in the car and a puppy to come out.”

“But there are certain boundaries within the team that have to be respected and George knows them very well. Once the traffic light is green, only the drivers are responsible. I can’t interfere, I can’t control them or remote control them, but one thing is the most important thing: don’t touch it. That’s your responsibility.”

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