Mercedes drivers 'a little bit like teenagers' - WolffLaurence Edmondson May 27, 2014 « Raikkonen a 'super-cool guy' - Mattiacci | Red Bull competitiveness 'very much in Renault's hands' »
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are like teenagers pushing boundaries as they try to get the upper hand in their growing rivalry.
The tension between the two intensified over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend after Hamilton felt Rosberg prevented him setting a final quick lap in qualifying. On his final attempt, Rosberg missed his braking point at Mirabeau and took the escape road, causing Hamilton to slow for yellow flags at the corner and settle for second place.
Wolff has made clear that he does not think Rosberg took to the run-off zone on purpose, but highlighted existing divisions between the two that sparked the growing rift. He says Mercedes has put up boundaries of fair play to manage the rivalry, but that the drivers - like teenagers with their parents - are pushing the limits to see what they can get away with.
"We started [setting boundaries] before the season and this is a dynamic process that is being recalibrated before every single weekend - before the race weekend, at the race weekend and after the race weekend," he said. "Sometimes, and I mean this with a positive spin, they are a little bit like teenagers finding out how far they can go."
Wolff said Mercedes has been able to be a little bit lax in enforcing team orders because of the advantage the team has over the rest of the field.
"I think we are lucky that is still within the boundaries that we have set, because they have known each other for such a long time. You have seen in other teams how difficult it can get to manage and we are just lucky our car is performing so we have a bit of margin to allow them to play around. In a normal championship situation probably we would have made it a little more boring by now."
Asked whether Mercedes would make it through the season without one driver feeling like they are being treated unfairly, Wolff added: "On an average long-term, I think yes. But with peaks in both directions."
However, Wolff admits that his two drivers see the qualifying incident in Monaco in completely different ways.
"Everybody has their own perception, and, for Lewis, it is absolutely clear that it is black and it was a foul and, for Nico, it was absolutely clear it was white and not a foul. When we discussed it with them on Saturday we tried to explain that maybe the truth and the reality is somewhere in the middle. This is why it happened as it happened.
"If it was done on purpose, maybe it was payback. If it was done on purpose, it was done very intelligently. But I don't believe it was done on purpose because I know Nico and his character and he acts on his principles and is a guy who expects everybody to act with integrity and to a certain moral standard. So I am 110,000% certain he did not do it on purpose, even though some might be of another opinion."
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1