Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has revealed the team may have to make “an unpopular call” for their drivers in light of Ferrari’s revival this season.
Following the first three grands prix of the new Formula One season it is clear Mercedes will not have it all their own way as Ferrari appear poised to push them all the way.
Wolff’s remark also comes in the wake of Nico Rosberg’s moaning over the team radio during Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix about how slow race leader and team-mate Lewis Hamilton was driving up ahead of him.
Rosberg then turned on Hamilton during the post-race press conference, accusing the world champion of being selfish.
Hamilton insisted he was merely looking after his tyres to ensure they lasted during the crucial middle stint of the race, with the 30-year-old exonerated of any wrongdoing by Wolff and Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.
But Wolff has confirmed that with pressure from Ferrari, rather than his drivers simply allowed to fight it out between themselves as was the case last season, there may be decisions taken on the pit wall during a race that could anger one or the other.
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“It may be if we are risking a win against Ferrari we would make an unpopular call, not to freeze everything, but manage them more,” Wolff said.
“Our number one objective, which is what we have decided with the drivers, is we have a big responsibility to the team and the brand.
“It’s not just about those two guys, it’s about the thousand people working on those cars.
“If it gets to the point where we have to interfere between the two of them because we risk losing a race win, then we would do that.
“We don’t have the same gap that we did last year where we can just let them push each other until the very end. We need to manage the gaps.”
It was suggested to Wolff that he was risking Mercedes’ DNA as racers – something he has insisted all along would never be tampered with – but he replied: “It depends on what you do.
“We have seen in the past a clear team order that has stated ‘you are not allowed to overtake’ even though the driver behind may be faster, for example.
“This is not something I can honestly see happening in the future.
“I can understand why teams in the past have done it because they were under threat of losing a championship.
“Knock on wood, we haven’t been in that situation.
“But managing the situation more, without having to make such a drastic call, is a possibility for us now.”
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