Wolff resorted to 'iron fist' to curb Hamilton-Rosberg rivalry

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Toto Wolff says he was forced to get tough on Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and pound the table with an "iron fist" at the peak of the pair's antagonistic rivalry at Mercedes.

Hamilton and Rosberg shared four seasons together at Mercedes, from 2013 up until 2016 when the German driver unexpectedly walked away from the sport after defeating his arch-rival in the world championship.

Hamilton and Rosberg rekindled in their early days at Mercedes the close friendship they had enjoyed during their karting years together as teammates for Mercedes Benz McLaren.

But F1's higher stakes and the pair's on-track battles at the head of the field with Mercedes quickly eroded their harmony and rapport, giving way to an all-out hostile relationship that did not always bring out the best of each driver according to Wolff.

"I'm not sure it gets the best out of both, because that is negativity, and you still have to be a team player," Wolff revealed on Jake Humphrey's latest High Performance podcast.

"If the debriefing room is full of negativity, because the two drivers are hostile with each other, then that will spill over into the energy into the room, and that is not something I will ever allow again."

While Rosberg had moved from Williams to Mercedes in 2010 to race alongside Michael Schumacher, Hamilton joined the Brackley squad four years later, just as Wolff had taken over the team's reins.

The Austrian therefore wasn't responsible for pitting the two drivers against each other and believes the team's previous management had not given much thought about the potential dynamic that would govern Hamilton and Rosberg's relationship.

"I couldn't change it, because the drivers were hired before I came," Wolff said.

"Nobody actually thought what is the dynamic between the two? What is the past between the two? There was a lot of historical context that none of us knew, and will never know.

"That's why it is something that we're looking at, how do the drivers work with each other, what happens in the case of failure of one and the other.

"We accept the annoyance and pain if it goes against one, but we're trying still to keep the positive dynamic in the team."

Wolff eventually succeeded in convincing his drivers at the time of the importance of their responsibilities as Mercedes' representatives out on the track, although he was on occasion forced to use an "iron fist" to remind Hamilton and Rosberg of their duties when on-track incidents or flash points occurred between the pair.

"It was very difficult, because I came into the team as a newcomer in Formula 1, and Nico and Lewis had been in the sport for much longer," Wolff recalled.

"But still I was able to create an environment where they had to respect the team, sometimes with an iron fist, and they understood that they couldn't let us down, they couldn't let Mercedes down.

"In the events of 2014, I felt there was some selfish behaviour. I said the next time you come close to the other car, your teammate, you think about the Mercedes brand.

"You think about single individuals in the team. You think about Dieter Zetsche, the CEO of Mercedes. That's going to change the way you act. You're not going to put your teammate into the wall.

"I always made clear that if this was going to happen regularly and there was a pattern, I have no fear in making somebody miss races."

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