Toto Wolff warns rivals Vettel and Leclerc
Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has issued a stark warning to rivals Ferrari in the wake of Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc’s bitter rivalry, claiming the relationship had the potential to turn toxic if not managed correctly.
“I think always two alphas competing for position has the potential for rivalry and escalation within the team,” said Wolff, who had to manage his own difficult driver situation when Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were paired up at Mercedes at the start of the V6-hybrid era.
“We’ve been there and I think today as a team, we are very strong, with a clear philosophy. On the positives, they keep taking points away from each other, which is an advantage.”
Leclerc was left complaining angrily over team radio about what he perceived as Vettel’s preferential treatment, which led Vettel to win the Singapore Grand Prix.
It followed the Italian Grand Prix where Vettel was left angered after Leclerc appeared to renege on an agreement to provide him with a tow in qualifying.
Mercedes find themselves on the back foot following three Ferrari victories in succession, the last coming at a track where the Scuderia were expected to struggle. And while Mercedes have never been beaten at the upcoming Russian Grand Prix since its inauguration in 2014, Wolff was taking nothing for granted given the recent run of form.
“Sochi has been a strong circuit for us in recent years but those trends don’t mean anything once we are on the ground,” Wolff said ahead of the action in Russia. “We expect the weekend ahead to be another challenging one for us.
“The last seven races have shown us that we are in the midst of a fierce battle – and we need to be at our best in every area to claim the top step of the podium.”
Although they now haven’t won a race since Hungary back at the start of August, Mercedes at least enjoy a still-healthy 133-point lead over Ferrari heading into the Russian Grand Prix weekend, having dropped just 17 points to their rivals in the last three races despite Ferrari’s victories.