Nico Rosberg believes Toto Wolff’s radio message at Imola was “very smart” in trying to keep Lewis Hamilton motivated, but was “not quite the truth”.
Wolff apologised to the seven-time former World Champion over team radio as he crossed the line in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after a torrid race for Hamilton that saw him finish all the way down in P13 and lapped by eventual winner Max Verstappen.
“Sorry for what you have needed to drive today,” Wolff said directly to Hamilton. “I know this is undriveable and not what we deserve to score as a result.
“We’ll move from there, but this was a terrible race. We will come out of this.”
Hamilton admitted his title hopes for this year are over after the dust had settled at Imola, having been off the pace all weekend in the W13 – a car he described as being “not far off” the worst he has driven in his 16 seasons in Formula 1.
The scores from the #ImolaGP are in 🧐
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) April 25, 2022
There is still a long way to go in the season, but Rosberg thinks Wolff saying he is shouldering the responsibility is a clever ploy, serving to deflect from Hamilton’s struggles while team-mate George Russell went on to take 12 points from the race.
“Toto was playing the mental game, which is very smart on his behalf,” the 2016 World Champion told Sky Sports F1.
“[Mercedes are] taking the blame themselves, really trying to support Lewis mentally, lifting him up and saying, ‘hey, Lewis, it’s not your doing, it’s really on us’. That’s very smart because it’s not quite the truth.
“Let’s not forget Russell is in P4 with that same car, so Lewis definitely had a big role to play in that poor result this weekend.
“Russell still managed to get P4 out of it with a brilliant weekend, so there was more in that car.”
Russell now holds a 21-point lead over his new team-mate after four races, having finished ahead of Hamilton on three occasions in the early stage of his Mercedes career.
The younger Briton made up five places on the first lap at Imola and made the most of the clearer air to pick his way past Kevin Magnussen and profit from Charles Leclerc’s spin to take his fourth-placed finish at the weekend – but he has backed Hamilton to be “so strong” in his comeback.