Driver tension could force Mercedes line-up change, says Toto Wolff

AP Photo/Toru Takahashi

Toto Wolff says Mercedes will be forced to consider whether Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is the "best set-up" for the team going forward if tensions between the pair continue.

Mercedes enjoyed a record-breaking season, with 16 wins and 18 pole positions, but Wolff believes the fraught relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg has become the team's "biggest weakness". Over the course of the final two months of the season, anger from Rosberg about his team-mate's aggressive driving was followed by public frustration from Hamilton about the team's inflexibility over race strategy.

Wolff says constantly having to appease one driver after a race is not something he wants to still be doing next year.

"We struggle sometimes in winning races on Sunday and having always one [driver] upset," Wolff told Motorsport.com. "And this spills over into the team. It is something that needs to stop.

"I think it is important to have talented and fast drivers in the car. But we want to work with nice guys."

In the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there appeared to be disagreements over the radio between Hamilton and the pit wall, with race engineer Peter Bonnington telling the world champion "that's an order" in relation to a change in engine modes late in the grand prix. Mercedes has always let Hamilton and Rosberg race one another but Wolff admits a change of thinking might be required if things do not change next year.

"We took the decision of having two evenly matched drivers in order to make the team progress faster and better. 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."

Earlier in the year, Hamilton said Mercedes was going to special lengths to keep Rosberg happy after he suffered a run of reliability issues and lost the title with a mistake in Austin. Wolff suggests lots has happened this year away from the public eye and thinks tension between Hamilton and Rosberg has spilled over to affect relationships either man has with some members of the team.

"There is lots going on behind closed doors. 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."

Earlier this year Hamilton signed a new deal to keep him at Mercedes until 2018. Last July Mercedes gave Rosberg a "multi-year" contract extension which is believed to run until the end of 2016.