Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had an interesting admission to make when quizzed on Nico Rosberg’s retirement. Wolff claims he perceived Rosberg’s decision as an opportunity rather than a curse and similar thing can arise with Lewis Hamilton moving out in the future.
After two previously unsuccessful attempts, Nico Rosberg finally beat current champion Lewis Hamilton for the World Championship in 2016. It was a true underdog story that saw Rosberg hold his nerve in a thrilling race at Yas Marina.
Hamilton and Rosberg started as good friends – who raced each other in karting. But, the friendship would not last. The fight for F1 glory soured the relationship between the two and reached a point where the duo was no longer on speaking terms.
In the 2016 Abu Dhabi GP, Hamilton defied team orders and it was clear things had reached a breaking point. Fans were interested to see how this would play out throughout the upcoming season. What followed though was quite anticlimactic.
Rosberg dropped a bombshell by retiring from the sport, leaving Mercedes stunned. Mercedes scrambled to find a suitable replacement and that man was Valtteri Bottas.
Speaking to the media and FormulaRapida.net, Wolff said, “I know that sounds like a little bit of philosophical guru talk, but when Nico decided to quit, my initial reaction was actually the opportunity provided to us, and I think that the choice with Valtteri proved to be the right choice”.
“So, I still very much hope that our [Wolff, Hamilton and Mercedes] relationship continues, but I am not totally in control of that, so, if one important member breaks out, that provides certainly, risk and opportunity at the same time”.
Despite Rosberg’s departure, Mercedes have gone on to win 3 consecutive World Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships. Valtteri Bottas did struggle initially, but his recent campaign proved to be up to the mark. Bottas and Hamilton share a different dynamic when compared to Rosberg and Hamilton. Things have remained cordial between the two and Mercedes would be hoping things stay unchanged.
One of the takeaways from Nico Rosberg’s retirement was intrateam stability. Mercedes have only gone from strength to strength and the team function like a well-oiled machine.
Wolff continued, “But I think as long as we are able to produce a quick car, and a powerful engine, we will always have opportunity to decide who drives the car. And I think there will be no doubt that Lewis is our priority. We’ve tried to make it work with the team.”
“And I have tried to make it work with Lewis. But the most important is that we have a good car.”
The end of 2020 will see Lewis Hamilton without a Formula 1 contract. Although recent reports suggested a potential move to Ferrari, Hamilton looks to stay put. Wolff has acknowledged all possible scenarios including a potential retirement.
Much like 2016, Mercedes will have some challenging decisions to make yet again.