Wolff: Driver rivalry not easy to manage

Date published: August 13 2016 - Editor

Despite winning all but one grand prix and holding down the 1-2 in the standings, Toto Wolff says the first half of 2016 was not always easy given his drivers' rivalry.

Although Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have once again dominated Formula 1, their own on-track clashes have proven to be a headache for Mercedes.

Already this season the team-mates have been involved in three incidents, the first of which resulted in a double DNF for the team at the Spanish GP.

The third and final, Austria, forced Mercedes to threaten them with team orders and punishments should they not bring themselves into line.

Speaking about the first half of the championship, motorsport boss Wolff told Autosport: "I look back at the first half of the season as positive because winning almost every race is definitely what we had hoped to achieve.

"But the controversies and rivalries are certainly something that are not always easy to manage.

"We accept that, and have knowledge this is something that comes due to the fact we have two number one drivers who are provided with equal material and equal opportunity.

"But it consumes a lot of our time and that could have an effect long term.

"On a positive note, as long as it doesn't happen every race weekend, it has provided some of the narrative for this year's championship.

"My feelings, though, are clear: I'd rather avoid it and some of the headlines, and rather just win the races, but I guess we are in the entertainment industry."

The Austrian conceded that as long as his drivers are at the front, and the only two really fighting for the race wins and the championship, the niggles will continue.

He is, however, expecting that to change next season.

"If the team-mates are always on the same row of the grid, and that happens to be the first row, and it's about winning races and the championship, that can spill over.

"Next year it could be totally different. It could be a battle between four or six drivers or more.

"Obviously then your two drivers would be split most of the time, so it is a nice problem to have, but sometimes a tiring one."

He added: "Fighting for a championship in a competitive car, I'm actually quite proud of how we have managed it.

"We've made it last four seasons. If you look at some of the other examples in history, they haven't made it last more than two years.

"But you need to balance constantly between the positive effect it has in terms of performance, with two great drivers constantly pushing each other to new levels, and making the car go quicker.

"The downside of the rivalry is that it always bears the risk of spilling over into the team and damaging the spirit of the team, and that is a balance we permanently do.

"At the moment it's still positive."