Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says that being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate is a “tough challenge” for Nico Rosberg, but believes the German driver can turn around the points deficit to win the 2016 drivers’ championship.
Rosberg and Hamilton have been teammates since the beginning of 2013, enjoying a fierce rivalry during their battle for the world championship over the past three seasons.
Rosberg surged into a 43-point lead at the beginning of the 2016 season, only for Hamilton to chip away at his advantage before moving ahead in Hungary. Hamilton now leads Rosberg by 19 points with nine rounds remaining.
Speaking to the official F1 website, Wolff spoke about the rivalry between his drivers, both of whom have enjoyed varying successes through their careers.
Both won the GP2 title (Rosberg in 2005, Hamilton in 2006), but Rosberg did not win his first grand prix until his seventh season in F1. Hamilton has won a race in every season he has competed in.
Although Wolff does not think that this lack of victories has a mental impact on Rosberg in the battle against Hamilton, he conceded that being a teammate with the Briton is a challenge.
“No I don’t think it does something mentally. If you end up in Formula One and win races, you are mentally very strong,” Hamilton said.
“Nico’s circumstances were completely different to those of Lewis who immediately started his F1 career in a winning team with McLaren. Probably if he wouldn’t have won back then, that would have meant something.
“Right now Nico is paired with Lewis who is probably the best driver in F1 at the moment, and yes, that is a tough challenge.
“That is a benchmark – and he accepts that.”
When asked if Rosberg is still able to win a maiden F1 drivers’ championship in 2016, Wolff said: “We are half way through the 2016 season and only 19 points separate both.
“That’s less than one race win, and Nico is superb in qualifying. So both are on the same level.”
Hamilton is currently spending his summer break at the annual Crop Over festival in Barbados, chronicling his adventures on Snapchat.
Hamilton is one of the most present F1 drivers in mainstream media, gracing red carpets over the world and enjoying a celebrity status alongside his racing commitments.
Questions have been asked in the past regarding Hamilton’s focus, but Wolff said that so long as he continues to deliver on-track, Mercedes won’t interfere.
“As long as he functions as a race driver on the weekend and delivers results, we don’t interfere in the private life of the drivers,” Wolff said.
“Everybody is allowed to have friends in the social environment he chooses. This goes for both the drivers – and each member of the team.
“And so far over the last three years our results show that this has worked out well. Is it a recipe for future success? I don’t know!”