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