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Toto Wolff Q&A: Mercedes to analyse drivers' form swing

30 Nov 2015

Lewis Hamilton might have cruised to the 2015 title, taking pole in 11 of the first 12 rounds - but in recent races he has struggled to match Nico Rosberg, who picked up a sixth straight pole and third straight win in the season finale. Mercedes might not understand the momentum shift, but as their head of motorsport Toto Wolff explains, they will be looking into the situation in the coming weeks...

Q: Toto, there has been a lot of talk about set-up changes on Lewis and Nico's car - but does that fully explain the run Nico has been on?

Toto Wolff: What I can say is that there have been a lot of discussions lately about whether Nico has stepped up, whether the car has come more towards him development-wise, or whether Lewis has unconsciously just taken it a bit too easy. I have no answer to that. We have to make an audit in the next couple of weeks and analyse what happened in the last couple of races. I think that in the end for Lewis the title mattered and I honestly also have to say that these last couple of races were great driving from Nico's side.

Q: Lewis indicated that the set-up changes caused by the Singapore slump contributed to the car balance moving in a direction not so much to his liking. Is that so?

TW: The car has been developed and has improved. After Singapore we developed in a different direction based on the learnings we took on board from that weekend. Whether the car has come more to Nico - or has gone away from Lewis - I don't know. It could be a factor, but I wouldn't want to reduce it to one single issue. There could be many possible factors coming into the picture and playing a role.

Q: Has the wrong man won the title?

TW: Ouch! Here is the answer: in motorsport you have a stopwatch - and this stopwatch never lies. He scored the points necessary to win the championship so he must be the right man.

Q: You just mentioned that Lewis probably backed off a bit after winning the championship - have you noticed a drop in intensity in the way he has been?

TW: No, because I don't think that this would have been something that was done consciously. He is still pushing very hard - he still has the same talent and puts the same effort into his races. But yes, it could play a role.

Q: You said that the stopwatch does not lie - so in the last six races you must have picked up something from the data as to why it has swung so much in Nico's favour...

TW: I think this is more of a soft factor than the sole reason. But yes, I agreed that the driver is a significant part of the driver/car package and Lewis indicated some days ago that he doesn't have the same good feeling in the car as before - and if he says that then this is something that we have to consider.

Q: In the last stint of Sunday's Abu Dhabi race Lewis was closing the gap, but when it came to seven seconds it stopped. Why was that?

TW: Probably because Lewis realised that the gap was too big to make an attempt. There is no other explanation to that.

Q: But why did Lewis look so annoyed at the end?

TW: Because he is such an ambitious person - that makes him the successful driver that he is. That is sometimes uncongenial, but it is the right package and one that we want. He is asking a lot from the team. But I think after the podium and press conference everything is back to normal again.

Q: If you look at 2016, is there anybody you feel could threaten your position at the top?

TW: Well, I think Ferrari have made significant steps forward and we think they could to the same things in 2016. We take them very seriously! Competition is very welcome - and Ferrari definitely is our best 'frenemy'! (laughs)

Q: Do you believe that after two unchallenged years life will become more stressful for Mercedes in 2016?

TW: I always think that - every year. Luckily it didn't happen [in 2015] but I think we have every reason to be sceptical - or at least we should have that attitude to do a good job over the winter. What I see from the various departments is very encouraging, but you have to put it together for it to work. And as I said before: the stopwatch never lies. We will know by Melbourne at the latest whether we've done a good enough job.