Wolff’s vow to avoid driver ‘conflict’ and a Schumacher-Hamilton comparison

Toto Wolff says he won’t let a healthy rivalry between Mercedes F1 teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell descend into conflict. 
Wolff’s vow to avoid driver ‘conflict’ and a Schumacher-Hamilton comparison

Hamilton and Russell formed a strong relationship both on and off the track in their first season as teammates amid their push to help Mercedes recover from a torrid 2022 campaign. 

But it remains to be seen whether the respect will be maintained if Hamilton and Russell find themselves in a direct battle for race wins and the world title during the 2023 season. 

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Prior to Russell’s arrival, Mercedes enjoyed a harmonious partnership of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for five years, which followed a fierce intra-team rivalry that erupted between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

Hamilton and Rosberg had been childhood friends but their relationship suffered a complete breakdown after going head-to-head for F1 titles over the course of three seasons. 

But Wolff has promised to do everything in his power to avoid a repeat of that scenario with Hamilton and Russell.

“A good dynamic between the drivers also depends on what the management sets them, what framework conditions we set for them, and how the drivers interact with each other in terms of respect,” Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport.

“I think we are in a good starting position because both drivers respect each other. Respect each other humanly.

“We accept that there can be a rivalry between our drivers. But this rivalry must never degenerate into a conflict that could damage the team. 

“I would never allow that. I have never allowed that either.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 at the end of year drivers' photograph.
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG…

Russell became the first teammate since Rosberg in 2016 to beat Hamilton over the course of a season as he finished fourth in the 2022 drivers’ standings, two places and 35 points ahead of his fellow Briton. 

Wolff is predicting another close battle between Russell and Hamilton, who he likened to fellow seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher

“Lewis is the best driver of all time along with Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari days,” Wolff added. “I would see Lewis and George on a par in 2022.

“George got out of a car that was certainly difficult to drive. He got into one that was certainly difficult to drive as well.

“Lewis went from a perfect car to the W13. So he had to adapt a lot. We had races where George was stronger and races where Lewis was stronger.

“But it wasn’t about who scored more points and beat the other. It was about developing a car together that was capable of winning.

“Both have great respect for each other. And both recognise the other’s performance. That’s a good constellation.”

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