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Moving aside tough pill to swallow for Rosberg - Toto Wolff Q&A

30 May 2016

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes snatched victory from under the noses of Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull in Monaco - but it could have been very different had Nico Rosberg objected to a team order to move aside for the Briton in the early stages of the race. Mercedes-Benz's head of motorsport Toto Wolff explains the decision, and why the team had ultimate faith that if anyone could pull off their strategy gamble, it was Hamilton...

Q: Toto, can you talk us through the first phase of the race – Nico losing a lot of time and letting Lewis through. What was the dialogue like over that move?

Toto Wolff: Over the weekend we've struggled to switch the tyres on properly. Or more precisely: we haven't been able to put them in the right window. From the start of the race it seemed we were suffering it all over again. Ricciardo was just pulling away and Nico couldn't do that. The reason for that, we believe, was tyre temperature. The way in which Ricciardo was pulling away was clear that not reversing the situation between Nico and Lewis would definitely lose us the race. We actually waited for quite a while – giving Nico more laps for the tyre to come in – but it didn't happen. Then we finally decided to call it because Nico's pace was so much slower, and in the end it proved to be the right decision. And one thing I want to say: if I had a cap like Niki Lauda's I would doff it in respect for Nico giving up his position in such a difficult situation and putting the team's interests first!

Q: Do you have any explanation for why Nico struggled more than Lewis?

TW: We will have to see. Yes, Nico had more issues than Lewis – but we also have to see the Monaco pace overall and analyse that.

Q: Lewis did an amazing job doing 31 laps on the wet tyres...

TW: Well, Lewis is part of the team and we all did it together – to manage the situation in the right way. You could see that once he ‘cleared' Nico his pace was matching Ricciardo's pace, but it was not enough to catch up. The only way to achieve the race win was to gamble, to stay out on the wet tyres. It really dried up significantly in the first and second sector, but the third sector remained wet so it was a dialogue between the driver and his crew giving all the information he perceived out there. It was an aggressive call to let him stay out, but in the end a successful one. Then obviously Ricciardo's pit stop went sour, and that was it for Lewis.

Q: When Lewis did go out on the slicks he lost quite a lot of time in the first two laps...

TW: Yes, it was a bold call as the third sector was still wet. But we knew that if someone could manage it, it was Lewis. That gave us confidence with the decision.

Q: After the Barcelona incident you said that Mercedes will still stick to the plan of letting your two drivers race each other. Were you surprised that Nico moved over for Lewis?

TW: First of all, any such call is very difficult for any driver to swallow. We understand that, and that is why we looked at the situation for several laps hoping that Nico's tyres would switch on. That cost us quite a lot of time, so then we made the call. Nico's car was almost like a damaged car – and that is why we took that decision. It was not an easy thing to do, but it was clear that here was a problem on the car.

Q: This win must come for Lewis as a sort of deliverance after not having won for seven months. Did that drought get to him? How did his mood swing?

TW: The last couple of weeks have strengthened Lewis and strengthened our relationship. If you really go through bad times together it gives the relationship more strength. Of course we had many discussions and difficult moments – and this win was just what the doctor ordered. He needed that win. His No.1 mechanic Nathan was with him on the podium. Even if it was a bit of a sad afternoon for Nico, we are super happy that we have pulled off that win after such a terrible streak of bad luck.

Q: Did Nico ask questions when you told him to let Lewis pass?

TW: Not one single question! First we told him to pick up the pace if he was able to do it, and if not then let Lewis pass by. One lap later we gave him that call. And he immediately did it.

Q: Do you think it is difficult now for Nico to recover after such a call?

TW: For Nico it was a messy day anyway – not only having to let his team mate pass, but also had a scrappy pit stop and on top a car that didn't have the right pace. All the bad luck was with him today. That is why he only finished seventh. So we had a happy winner today – and an unfortunate seventh. That is what you probably would call mixed emotions. (laughs) But in two weeks' time things might just be the other way around again!


WATCH: Race highlights from Monaco

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