Toto Wolff has conceded that Mercedes was wrong to issue orders to Lewis Hamilton in his Formula 1 championship showdown in Abu Dhabi with Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton risked angering Mercedes’ management when he went deliberately slow during the closing stages of the final race of the year, in a bid to cause teammate and title rival Rosberg to lose positions.
Hamilton was told on multiple occasions to pick up speed, with Mercedes fearing that it could lose the race win to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Mercedes F1 chief Wolff admitted that the team was wrong to tell Hamilton to pick up speed, adding that the title contenders should have been left to fight it out on-track.
“In the heat of the moment, sometimes when you make decisions you get them wrong,” Wolff said.
“In our mind, the way we think, this race is giving us the same number of points as other races and we try to win that one, not considering that there was much more at stake for the drivers.
“How the race panned out, we should have communicated differently and in hindsight let them race in the way they deemed to be appropriate.”
Hamilton held on to win the race in Abu Dhabi, but Rosberg clinched the championship by finishing second ahead of Vettel and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Rosberg announced five days later that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, freeing up a seat alongside Hamilton for the 2017 season.
Hamilton has previously said that he was not concerned who his new teammate was, so long as he had equal rights within the team.
However, Wolff acknowledged that Mercedes’ new driver would need to create a good balance with the three-time world champion.
“He has been a great pillar in the team’s success. When he came, everything changed, so he has played a role,” Wolff said of Hamilton.
“It’s very important to keep him in a good place. The dynamics between the two drivers is one of the factors we will consider.”