Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff has likened manging the relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to a volcano on the verge of erupting.

Former childhood friends and karting rivals Hamilton and Rosberg spent four seasons alongside each other at Mercedes and directly battled for three consecutive world titles as the German manufacturer enjoyed a dominant spell at the beginning of the V6 hybrid era.

Hamilton beat Rosberg to the 2014 and 2015 championships, while Rosberg pipped Hamilton to his maiden crown in 2016 before retiring from the sport. The pair’s rivalry grew increasingly intense and featured a number of on-track collisions as relations turned sour.

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Speaking in an interview with the official F1 podcast ‘Beyond the Grid’, Wolff opened up on what it was like managing the partnership.

“We didn’t have a situation where both drivers were fighting for a championship, which became a totally different ballgame [in 2014],” Wolff said.

“You realise that both of them are complete alpha drivers. Both of them want to attempt to win the world championship, neither of them are slotted in as a number two.

“It is a little bit like a volcano that has started to shake and then eventually erupts.

“Every single controversy grew into something bigger and that became quite a distraction for the team to manage.

“Because we are humans it always gets complicated emotionally because at times you like one [driver] more than the other - and that is completely normal.”

Wolff revealed a conversation with four-time world champion Alain Prost about his own breakdown in relationship with former McLaren teammate Ayrton Senna amid a notably fierce rivalry helped him manage the brewing conflict between his own drivers.

“I had a discussion with Alain Prost back in 2014 which gave me a good learning,” Wolff explained. “I asked him the question about what went wrong between him and Senna. Two great drivers saw their relationship breaking down and ending in collision on track.

“He said the biggest problem for him was the transparency of the management. They never knew what the agenda of the senior management in McLaren was.

“You never knew if you were in or out, whether you were the flavour of the month or not, whether there were politics against you or not.

“What I tried to implement very early in the team was the ultimate transparency - we talk about things. Sometimes it’s the inconvenient truth - things you don’t want to hear.

“Over time, over the years, we got to know each other better, we started to trust each other and the inconvenient truth is something that can be very helpful in helping you to achieve your objectives,” he added.

“You just put it all out. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you agree to disagree and then at least understand each other’s standpoint. This is very important and this is how we handled the situation with Nico and Lewis.

“It wasn’t me alone, in the process there were many others in the team that were really helpful and managed it in the same way I did.”

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