Lewis Hamilton was given a call to pick up his pace in the Hungarian Grand Prix after 'over-managing' his tyres at a crucial point in the race as Toto Wolff dismissed the suggestion the new championship leader was intentionally holding up Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton appeared to be controlling the pace at the Hungaroring after snatching the lead from Rosberg at the first corner, only to see his lead whittled down during the second stint on soft tyres as he apparently struggled for speed.
With Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel beginning to close the gap in third and fourth as a result, Hamilton was subsequently given the hurry up to up his pace or risk a change of strategy that would have prioritised his team-mate to ensure it quelled the threat from behind.
However, Wolff refuted the suggestion Hamilton was trying to back Rosberg into trouble, saying the uncertainty over tyre durability had prompted the three-time champion to be overly cautious.
“I'm sure he didn't want to back him up,” he said. “All weekend we were discussing with them that they need to be very cautious on the tyres. We weren't sure if it was a two stop or a three stop and if you hear the constant messaging that your tyres might not last you want to manage them, and he managed it very well on the first stint on the super-soft and then we bolted on the softs.
“We didn't have any experience on those tyres, so he over managed it probably. He had everything under control, he knew that Nico was behind him and didn't realise that the train was approaching fast and that there was a different strategy behind him, so I guess he didn't have the complete picture and for him it looked OK. That's why he just took it easy.”
“These tyres need to go a long way and what he was saying on the radio was that he was 'driving to the best of my abilities', that doesn't mean 'I'm driving as fast as I can' and I think we needed to make it clear to him that we were running into a problem. Sometimes as a driver you must not forget you are sitting in the car out there, you are managing the pace.
Indeed, Wolff says the hurry up was a serious one as it could have swung the advantage back in Rosberg's favour so as to ensure a Mercedes 1-2.
“We said, and the seriousness of the message was, you can either say that we are going to reverse the cars like we did in Monaco if you don't pick up the pace, or, we might pit Nico earlier and I think that message was what he needed. What he needed to understand was that the pace needed to be picked up.”