Mercedes Formula 1 team principal Toto Wolff says an “iron fist” was needed to manage Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and keep them in check.

Hamilton and Rosberg endured a fractious rivalry during their four-year stint as teammates at Mercedes between 2013-2016, as the pair engaged in direct title fights for three consecutive seasons before Rosberg retired from F1 after winning his maiden title in 2016.

The tension often boiled over and resulted in on-track clashes, with notable collisions occurring at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix and the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix. The most famous incident saw Hamilton and Rosberg wipe each other out on the opening lap of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

Speaking about the difficulties he faced in managing the rivalry on Jake Humphrey’s High Performance Podcast, Wolff revealed that he even went as far as threatening to bench his drivers in a bid to maintain order within the team.

"It was very difficult, because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer," Wolff explained.

"But still I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team, sometimes with an iron fist, and they understood that they couldn't let us down, they couldn't let Mercedes down.

"In the events of 2014, I felt there was some selfish behaviour. I said the next time you come close to the other car, your teammate, you think about the Mercedes brand. You think about single individuals in the team. You think about Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Mercedes. That's going to change the way you act. You're not going to put your teammate into the wall.

"I always made clear that if this was going to happen regularly and I would see a pattern, I have no fear in making somebody miss races.”

Hamilton and Rosberg had previously been teammates in karting before partnering each other for the first time in F1 at Mercedes, and Wolff admitted there was “a lot of historical context that none of us knew”.

"I couldn't change it, because the drivers were hired before I came," Wolff said.

"Nobody actually thought what is the dynamic between the two? What is the past between the two? There was a lot of historical context that none of us knew, and will never know.

"That's why it is something that we're looking at, how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure of one and the other.

"We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we're trying still to keep the positive dynamic in the team.”

And Wolff dismissed the notion that the fierce competition between the duo helped bring out the best in his drivers, insisting he will never allow a repeat of the situation while he is in charge of Mercedes.

"I'm not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player,” he added.

"If the debriefing room is full of negativity, because the two drivers are hostile with each other, then that will spill over into the energy into the room, and that is not something I will ever allow again.”

 

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