Tuesday 24 October 2017

Wolff backs Rosberg to test Hamilton


Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff
Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff

Daniel Johnson

Toto Wolff has the best seat in the house for a psychological war which has become distinctly one-sided. The duel on track has hardly been close either.

The head of Mercedes motorsport has the unenviable task of managing these two egos, but of late only one, Lewis Hamilton, has been irrepressibly dominant while the other, Nico Rosberg, is in constant need of a pick-me-up.

After sealing a third championship in spectacular style, Hamilton said it was the "worst" being his team-mate. His latest follow-up to that cheeky taunt was to compare his pre-eminence to that of Usain Bolt or Muhammad Ali in their pomp.

"There was a time when no one could beat Tiger Woods because he was too good," Hamilton said last night. "That's not what I'm saying about myself because I like to do my talking on the track, but that's just how sport is. There's all the opportunities ahead of us for him to win. It's how you go about it. It's not impossible."

Rosberg's response has been to partly blame his fatal error in the closing stages of last weekend's United States Grand Prix on a "gust of wind". His riposte to Hamilton's jibe was unusually feisty for the German - "that comment makes it even better for me because I'll get even more pleasure beating him next time" - but he is failing to land any punches where it counts.

Wolff is sat in the middle, trying to keep the peace. He viewed Hamilton's comments with a smile.

"The other one does the same things, the winding him up," Wolff said. "They wouldn't be where they are if they weren't on top of the psychological game as well."

Wolff insists Rosberg can win a title while alongside Hamilton, a view which certainly puts him in the minority in the paddock. But he concedes another year like this could take its toll.

If 2016 is like 2015, should Rosberg think about looking elsewhere, to another team?

"No, I think that Nico is going to tackle next year full steam ahead. If it doesn't go as he thinks it could go, maybe he is going to have that thought, but he is not there. And hopefully he never will be."

It is particularly worrying news for Rosberg that Hamilton suggested yesterday he would like to end his career at Mercedes, even beyond his new £100m deal, which expires at the end of 2018. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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