‘Rosberg and Hamilton on the same level’

Date published: August 6 2016

Toto Wolff is convinced Nico Rosberg has the mental fortitude to fight back in the title race, despite watching as his 43-point lead became a 19-point deficit.

Although Rosberg’s campaign began with a run of four successive race wins, since then he has won just one of eight.

On the other side of the garage Lewis Hamilton has hit top gear, winning six of those eight grands prix.

As such he took the lead in the championship off Rosberg in Hungary, and extended his advantage to 19 points at last Sunday’s German GP.

But despite Hamilton’s run, Wolff firmly believes Rosberg has what it takes to fight back against his team-mate.

“We are half way through the 2016 season and only nineteen points separate both. That’s less than one race win – and Nico is superb in qualifying. So both are on the same level,” he said in an interview with the official F1 website.

Asked if Rosberg was ready for the ‘big bang’ given that success is a mind game, he replied: “No doubt!”

Wolff also refuted suggestion that Rosberg’s six years without a win when he first entered Formula 1 compared to Hamilton’s immediate success had hurt the German mentally.

“No I don’t think it does something mentally,” he said. “If you end up in Formula One and win races, you are mentally very strong.

“Nico’s circumstances were completely different to those of Lewis who immediately started his F1 career in a winning team with McLaren. Probably if he wouldn’t have won back then, that would have meant something.

“Right now Nico is paired with Lewis who is probably the best driver in F1 at the moment – and yes, that is a tough challenge. That is a benchmark – and he accepts that.”

The Mercedes motorsport chief also touched on his drivers’ rivalry, which has already seen contact on three grands prix Sundays this season.

The last, Austria, led to warnings of team orders and punishments.

But while the Brackley bosses opted not to issue team orders, Wolff has reiterated that Mercedes will take action should there be any further contact between the team-mates.

“After all these years we have accepted that driver rivalry can create painful friction among them – but it also creates headlines.

“Nevertheless we are responsible for delivering results. And results are what really count!

“Scoring points is what gets you championships – and not front pages full of crashed cars!

“Therefore contact between the cars is unacceptable. Period!

“If they make contact again in such a way that we deem one or both drivers being responsible for it – throwing away the work of 1,500 people and risking the reputation of a big brand – then we will take action and both drivers know it.

“We have always said we need to consider whether the line-up is sustainable long-term if that keeps on happening, if we can keep riding this wild horse, and we haven’t changed our opinion.”