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Toto Wolff Q&A: Rosberg was maybe too cautious

02 Nov 2014

For the tenth time this season, Mercedes-Benz’s head of motorsport Toto Wolff saw his drivers come home one-two, but yet again it was Lewis Hamilton leading Nico Rosberg across the line. After the race, Wolff explained to reporters why he thought the Briton had got the upper hand over the German…

Q: Toto, is it true that Nico Rosberg was not able to make the tyres work in today’s race?
Toto Wolff:
No that is not true. It was clear that the hard compound would be on the car for a significant number of laps at the beginning of the race on the fully-fuelled car - on both cars. So both drivers got the message to take care of the tyres. Nico had a three-second lead over Lewis (Hamilton) in that phase - and without having talked to him so far - it looked like he was taking care of the tyres a bit too much. That is how it looked from the outside. So Lewis closed the gap and got into the DRS window and overtook Nico. Nico did have the pace to hold against it - that became clear towards the end of the race when he closed in on Lewis again on the same tyres. So my impression is that he was maybe a bit too cautious on the hard compounds at the start.

Q: Could it be that he defined a wrong strategy for himself?
TW:
Yes, you could say that. He was a bit too cautious, yes. Especially if the one behind you is pushing and is on the same tyres. But I say that before having had a word with Nico.

Q: Was he surprised about Lewis overtaking him?
TW:
I cannot say. Lewis out-braked him - and he had no chance.

Q: Lewis has won ten races this season compared to Nico’s four. Shouldn’t that automatically make him the champion?
TW:
That was the issue with the (proposed) medals system some time ago: that whoever got the most medals is the champion. But I think that the rule that we have now in terms of deciding who is going to be the champion is good: it is not only about winning races but also being consistent over a long season and scoring points. I am a fan of stable rules - and I think it is good as it is. It is crazy enough that we will have double points at the last race - that can turn everything upside down again. That should be enough. And if you look at the weekend: the pace was on Nico’s side and Lewis admitted after Saturday’s qualifying that he didn’t have that speed, even without the brake issue.

Q: When you say that Nico was too cautious today, does he have your blessing in the next two races to be more aggressive?
TW:
I just said that maybe him being overcautious was the reason for Lewis being able to overtake rather easily - but the fact is that he always has our blessing to go full throttle, especially today. There has been no call from the team side to be cautious.

Q: Today it became official that only a Mercedes driver can win the title. Will that change anything?
TW:
We have to think about that. Yes, it is true that only one of our guys has a chance at the title - but we also want it to be a clean win. Fair and clean, just like today. Since Spa they haven’t raced against each other over aggressively - and that is what we expect.

Q: What would you consider not to be ‘clean’?
TW:
For Nico it is a pretty difficult situation, as he has to win the two remaining races and hope that Lewis finishes worse than P2 or that he retires. Not clean would mean forcing a collision - but that is something that Nico cannot afford at all. We don’t want a Senna-Prost situation, that is for sure.

Q: But isn’t that rather a call for Lewis, as Nico would not benefit at all from it?
TW:
True, a collision would not help Nico at all, but situations can always arise in a race - and we have to avoid them. The last thing that we want at the season final in Abu Dhabi is that there is an outcry because the title win isn’t considered ‘clean’!

Q: Knowing that as of today only a Mercedes driver can win the title - has that made you a little more relaxed?
TW:
Yes, it has - now that it is certain. It was likely, yes, with a gap of 92 points to Daniel Ricciardo, but we have seen that strange things can happen in Formula One, so it is nice to know that we are on the sure side now.

Q: Is there a fear that the a double points switch at the last race could overshadow your season?
TW:
No fear, but the double points have the potential to overshadow a season. We know why the double points came in - it made all the sense in the world to make the season spectacular for the audience until the very last race - but now we are in a situation where it might change the outcome.