F1 Italian Grand Prix 2014: Toto Wolff warns Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton will get the boot if warring goes on


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The Independent Online

Just in case Toto Wolff did not make the point strongly enough to his warring drivers at an intra-team showdown meeting in Brackley this time last week, the Mercedes executive director has reiterated here at the Italian Grand Prix that if their simmering rivalry cannot be controlled he would have to consider changing the line-up in the future.

It was an interesting comment to make, given Nico Rosberg’s admitted culpability for his role in their recent collision in the Belgian Grand Prix and subsequent rumoured six-figure fine, and the fact that while he has just extended his contract Lewis Hamilton, the victim, has not.

Wolff said that if the two drivers could not find a way to work together, “we would have to take decisions and take the consequences of having a different line-up. If we are not able to manage the two of them following the Mercedes-Benz spirit, then we need to admit that.

“The best case for us is that we stay on top of the situation and that it doesn’t get any more nasty than it did in Spa and that we stay on top in the world championship, with a very good car.

“But this is an organisation that puts a lot of effort into what we do, we have more than 1,000 people who are part of the team and everyone must follow that racing spirit.

“We would love to continue with Lewis and we want to continue with Nico. They know what our expectations are and I have no doubt that we won’t see such a Spa incident in the future. We have made it clear that it is an unacceptable scenario.”

On Friday, he made further clarification to what was already crystal clear. “The context of those remarks was what would happen if we were not able to get on top of the situation,” he said. “We are very happy with our driver line-up and we trust them. As you know we have had very clear discussions since Belgium, and our drivers know what shouldn’t happen.

“Maybe it was just important to re-emphasise that, and my statement was about what could happen if we do not get on top of the situation. But that was the very, very worst case vision, and I don’t think that we will ever get there.”

Yesterday Hamilton and Rosberg were good boys and shared the honours as Mercedes once again headed the timesheets. Hamilton beat Jenson Button by 0.623sec to come out on top in the morning session, with 1m 26.187s to Rosberg’s 1m 26.995s in third; in the afternoon Rosberg was ahead by 0.061s, 1m 26.225s to Hamilton’s 1m 26.286s. But where the German managed 67 laps in total, Hamilton could muster only 41 after losing 65 minutes with yet another reliability issue – this time an electronic glitch that prevented his engine from starting – in the afternoon.

Fridays are always tricky to judge, but the signs are that the gap between Mercedes and their rivals could be smaller here after Ferrari, Williams and McLaren showed strong form too.

Questions continue to swirl around as to why the FIA did not investigate the Spa clash at the time, especially when it docked Kevin Magnussen 20 seconds post-race for allegedly easing Fernando Alonso off the road at one stage.

And now that it is clear that by his own admission Rosberg enhanced his title prospects and has been fined by his own team, many believe there are compelling grounds for the same race stewards to reconvene and take appropriate action. There is precedence for this, after the clash between Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa in Canada was reassessed. But the FIA continues to hide behind the excuse that no new evidence has been presented. Clearly this is not the case, but it is not the first time the FIA has been silent when it should have been acting decisively.

Yesterday it also emerged that teams are still awaiting guidance from the governing body with regard to the Russian GP next month, given the conflict in Ukraine.