Could Mercedes dump Lewis or Nico?

Perhaps Ron Dennis could shed a lot of light on what it’s like to have two strong drivers with strong personalities. The Prost/Senna era at McLaren or the Hamilton/Alonso era might be a good example of how Ron struggled with fielding two very dynamic and aggressive drivers.

That seems to be the situation at Mercedes at the moment and it has prompted team boss Toto Wolff to offer some controversial words regarding the situation:

“We took the decision of having two evenly matched drivers in order to make the team progress faster and better,” he said. “It was a very conscious decision three years ago.

“Going forward, we will consider if it is the best set-up for the team. Personality and character within the team is a crucial ingredient for the team success.

“If we feel that it is not aligned with the general consensus, spirit and philosophy within the team, we might consider that when we take a decision, in terms of the driver line-up going forward.”

During the season, I said that if Nico Rosberg has any hope of staying with the team, he’d need to star putting his foot down, ignoring the team calls asking him to be compliant to strategies that favor Lewis and to become downright ruthless in his quest to be world champion. That’s the way Lewis approaches it and he works the press and team to his bidding.

If the team are serious about jettisoning one of their drivers, you’d be adventurous to think it would be Hamilton who sees the door. The 3-time champ has given Mercedes exactly what it wanted while Nico has given them wins and finished right behind Lewis—which is also what the team wants. What it doesn’t want is Nico’s grumpy mood and Spa antics. It doesn’t want the drama because that can have a knock-on effect within the team as Toto said:

“There is lots going on behind closed doors,” he said. “I feel that the team is stronger than ever. We are having huge unity within the team, but the difficult relationship of the drivers is one of our weaknesses. And that is not good.

“If I were to analyse what are the biggest strengths and the biggest weakness of the team, I would say the biggest strength is the quality and the characters of the personalities within the team.

“The biggest weakness is the dynamic of the relationship between the drivers – and sometimes between the drivers and the team.”

In the end, Nico has a choice to make and that is to become the Rubens Barrichello to Hamilton’s Schumacher or simply fight back and try to knock Lewis’s feet off the desk at Mercedes. So far, Nico has shown he has little interest in being a Rubens and Lewis has had his pouty moments as well accusing the team of coddling Nico. Who would you replace?

If I’m honest, I think Nico is a better team player and more amiable to the team’s mission and directive. He’s more apt to follow team orders and that’s why he’s been beaten for the last two years…BUT…he’s fast and a damn good driver and having a driver who can work with the team is critical. Lewis has a tendency to be chippy when things aren’t right and that can be with the other driver or the team. Lewis will always place himself above the team and that’s what makes him a 3-time champ but it also creates issues within the team. Alonso is similar and so is Vettel. It just depends on what Mercedes want in the long term.

If I were Toto, I might be inclined to keep Nico and go get Max or Wehrlein in the other car. That’s because I would want harmony in the team and I wouldn’t want the two sides of the garage split with drama. In the end, I think Toto is just sending a message to his drivers.

Hat Tip: Motorsport

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JasonSCarter

I agree with your NC. In the words of Ron Dennis “Suck it up!” Lewis needs to suck it up and be more of a team player.

dude

That would be a terrible decision. Mercedes is fearing (yes) Ferrari right now, if they get rid of Lewis they will risk losing the driver title and a lot of points. If they get rid of Nico, they need to find someone as good to bring them the manufacturer championship. Get rid of Lewis and you have Vettel as champion next year and they would probably lose the manufacturer title too, Ferrari is going to be stronger in 2016. McLaren dominated with Ayrton and Prost, and they were mortal enemies. Teams need two motivated drivers, not two nice drivers.

dude

Also the marketing potential of Lewis alone outweight Nico and Wehrlein combined.

At this point I wouldn’t even replace Nico with Max, few drivers have his consistencies.

Christy from Canada

I’m sure it is really annoying to the team though to have to deal with the drama. We’ve all worked with someone like this at the office who ruins it for everyone.

MIE

It’s the difference in attitude of both drivers when they have been beaten by their team mate that interests me: Rosberg, while not happy at being beaten earlier in the year, did say that Hamilton had driven a ‘champions race’ on more than one occasion. However even admitting that the other driver was faster than him didn’t stop him coming back for more; Hamilton in the last few races has blames changes to the car for his relative lack of pace. He is unwilling to admit that Rosberg was just faster than him, or that he drover better than him.… Read more »

Richard Piers

My observations have been that Hamilton has been the one showing most dissent. He is not a good team player and believes he is God’s gift.
I am not convinced that for a company like Mercedes he is even a better marketing option, many of his comments grate.
He can certainly be very charming but he seems to be being led by a questionable crowd.

Christy from Canada

I agree. Lewis seems fine when he’s winning, but he is not the same guy when he’s losing. I’d love to see him on the same team as Vettel – that would be highly entertaining!

Paulie M. Veltum

I can’t see what more Nico could do for team harmony. From what we’ve seen and heard, Nico tows the line. At this point, Nico is looking better for not being difficult with the team, as some wanted him to be. I think this shows that his willingness to fall in line has benefited him in his relationship with the best team in F1 as apposed to Lewis who shows obvious doubt and publicly questions some team decisions. Lewis showed at COTA he’s willing to put both cars at risk to get ahead. I’m not sure we’ve seen that this… Read more »

Tim C

Even though this whole driver rift is amusing to watch unfold, someone up the Merc chain needs to tell Toto to be quiet and handle his driver issues behind closed doors. It’s amusing, but some dirty laundry doesn’t need to be aired in public. For the life of me I cannot think of a good reason for Toto to even bring this up.

Scott Crawford

I think Nico would be an easier, safer prospect when the car is this dominant. I’m not so sure I’d make the same call if they were scrapping wheel to wheel with Ferrari and Red Bull at the front week in, week out.
The other thing is, that Mercedes as an auto manufacturer is funding this venture. If you were on the Mercedes board, who would you choose as a global ambassador for your brand?

Negative Camber

I think that’s a great point, Scott. I might make the same call if I were in a very competitive environment as Lewis is your man for that type of situation.

Paul KieferJr

Excellent point, sir. Who do you want to be the face of Mercedes: The kid from Stepenage with the chip on his shoulder and acting like the gang-banger with the attitude to match, or the guy who is all business but still has the drive to win, not just for himself but for the team? it’s all about the way you present yourself to the world. At that point, I’d sooner pick Rosberg over Hamilton (but that’s just me).

Scott Crawford

Certainly there is much about the lifestyles of celebrities that most of us find crass, and there is often little about the psyche of a world champion in any discipline that endears them to people, but I can’t help but think it would be difficult to explain to a major Mercedes shareholder with little or no interest in motorsport, why the internationally recognisable (in and out of F1), three time world champion, in whom they have invested tens of millions, was dropped because the other guy that he’s never heard of was ‘nicer’ or ‘easier to live with’! I’ve a… Read more »

Shaolin

I think Nico has displayed just as much dislike of losing as Lewis has, but not many F1 drivers like losing. As for Nico’s end-of-season form, lets be honest, the last few races have been the equivalent of a friendly soccer match. When there is no championship at stake, he managed to get the better of Lewis, but until he can do that when there is actually a championship being decided it really doesn’t count for much. A bit like when a 2nd rate soccer nation beats Germany in a friendly, we all say “well done, but it doesn’t count… Read more »

mini696

Lewis is too entitled to be a team player.

Andreas Möller

Todd – I think you nailed it in the last sentence. This seems to be part of the “sending a message” business F1 is so fond of. Although… if the others were to really start catching up, a different driver arrangement (i.e. a clear #1 driver with a dedicated #2 for the challengers to have to get past) might serve them better. With two equal drivers, whose gearbox seal do you break to move the other driver to the clean side of the grid…? As long as Mercedes can stay superior, I doubt they’ll see any reason to change their… Read more »

jakobusvdl

Two wcc’s, two wdc’s, two 2nd in the wdc, more 1-2’s, more poles, more points than any team EVER, and one of the drivers could be dropped! And I thought Toro Rosso was a tough environment for drivers. I’m sure this is a ‘pull your head in, and stop whinging’ message, but it makes you wonder what goes on behind the scenes at M-B. Is the team becoming factionaised behind the two drivers? If so, and that’s affecting M-B’s progress and team harmony, then I’d understand why Wolff would want to put a stop to it. To quote America’s next… Read more »

BasCB

Yep, I agree. As a team principal, I would also look at keeping a very fast, technical and team player in Rosberg who is sure to push anyone not on it. Promise Max that seat, pay off Horner and you have a great line-up for the next 5 years. Or Wehrlein, or try to pry Vandoorne out of McLarens grip.

Fred Betros

I would love to see the “plucky teen” in the car but I think he would be more trouble than Hamilton (see Singapore race this year – not a follower of team orders I suspect) and it may become a case of “be careful what you wish for!” I have a premonition of many front wing fragments and punctures with team radio “Max just hit me!!” being played at the beginning of the Sky telecast the following season. Ricciardo would be a good fit but that’s my biased Aussie coming to the surface. If you really want to conduct a… Read more »