As the Formula One 2023 season enters its second half, the dynamics within the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team are reaching a boiling point after several clashes on track. The tension between seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and his younger teammate George Russell is palpable, overshadowing the team’s usual cohesion and focus.
Hamilton, a seasoned veteran of the sport, is used to being the de facto leader of the team, both on and off the track. In contrast, Russell, a rising star and former Williams driver, has stepped out of Hamilton’s shadow, consistently challenging and occasionally outperforming the veteran.
Hamilton said, “It’s a different kind of energy this year”. Meanwhile, Russell, eager to prove himself, has made it clear that he’s not at Mercedes to play second fiddle.
“I’m here to win, just like everyone else on the grid,” he said recently, fuelling speculation about the power dynamics within the team.
Wolff denies rumour his absences have fuelled tensions
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff does not believe that his absence from the last two rounds in Japan and Qatar had any impact on the behaviour of his drivers, who experienced two tense moments on track.
Toto Wolff, who was absent from the track due to surgery, had to watch from a distance as his two drivers came close to making contact at Suzuka, before finally colliding a few days later on the first lap of the Qatar Grand Prix.
Wolff, who followed the Japanese and Qatari Grands Prix from home, believes there is absolutely no direct correlation between his absence and the simmering on-track tensions between the two Mercedes drivers.
“I don’t think so, we also laughed about it in the team. But I don’t think it has any effect,” said Toto Wolff in Austin, where the Austrian will be in the Mercedes garage this weekend.
“I think mainly we’re running more at the front now, and I think we have an idea of what it looks like to have no car in front of us, as it was for the McLarens and Max [Verstappen] there.”
“So yeah, anyway we’ll never know [whether his absence has an impact on the behaviour of his drivers], but I’m back,” he added.
Wolff: Matters are ‘dealt with’
Despite this, Wolff revealed that both incidents were dealt with internally behind closed doors in order to avoid such a scenario being repeated in the future.
“There were, let’s say, some unpleasant situations that we talked about because there were a lot of points left on the table. But nobody in the team is more aware than the drivers themselves.”
“Sometimes you need these moments to recalibrate things a bit and avoid similar situations in the future. But they’re racing drivers, they compete hard. Your first competitor is your team-mate, so I see him with a relatively relaxed attitude.”
Ahead of the US Grand Prix, the Mercedes team occupies second place in the constructors’ world championship, 28 points ahead of Scuderia Ferrari.
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