Wolff’s break triggers tension among Mercedes drivers

Toto Wolff will be facing a challenging situation when he resumes his position at the helm of Mercedes during the grands prix.

The team chief and part-owner began his break during the recent Japanese grand prix, reportedly to recuperate from a knee operation.

However, while he was away by thousands of miles, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell narrowly avoided a collision. Eventually, the remote pitwall Wolff had established at his residence had to intervene.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Wolff remarked to Osterreich newspaper a couple of days later. “We’re not battling for a victory or championship right now, but for the golden pineapple.

“When the drivers attempt to stretch boundaries, they’re reined in. Ultimately, I was the one to do that.”

Following his absence in Japan, 51-year-old Wolff admitted to overexerting during his knee recovery, leading to his doctor advising against travelling to Qatar.

At Qatar’s Losail circuit, a significant event unfolded: Hamilton and Russell collided at the initial turn. Accepting the blame, Hamilton, with only three functional wheels on his vehicle, conceded the error.

“I hope Toto didn’t have any items nearby; otherwise, they might need another surgery on that knee,” ex-F1 racer Alex Wurz humorously noted on Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Russell maintained there are “no hard feelings”, with Mercedes subsequently releasing a video that captured the two British drivers embracing.

Yet, Ralf Schumacher expressed to Sky Deutschland: “There’s a bit of work to be done between the two of them now. The team will need to intervene, and they will.”

Contrasting this, Hamilton’s prior and fiery competition with Nico Rosberg paints a different picture; the duo harboured a mutual disdain while competing at the forefront.

Nico Rosberg, the champion of 2016, reflecting on the Hamilton-Russell incident in Qatar, remarked: “There’s not much to discuss actually because it was relatively one-sided.

“Lewis apologising doesn’t happen often, but it’s also rarely this clear.

“Perhaps Toto needs to have a word with them. It’s unfortunate that Niki (Lauda) is missing now, as he was always the first mediator.

“Wherever Niki was in the world, Lewis and I had to go to him. Niki always tried to mediate so that we met in the middle.

“In this case, Lewis is clearly at fault, so Toto has to reprimand him.”