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Grand Prix Live Blog: Toto Wolff on Hamilton, Rosberg

Published June 6, 2014

Here is what Toto Wolff, executive-director of Mercedes-Benz Motorsports, told a scrum of Canadian motorsport writers this morning about the “fight” between his drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg:

Is the rivalry overblown between the two drivers? Are we (the media) making it more overblown that it really is?

You have to, because it is the only story you have left this year. (Knock on wood.) When you’re in a car that’s capable of winning the world championship and your only enemy is your teammate it’s clear that the relationship is difficult. It will have ups and downs. We haven’t really seen the big downs. But it’s completely normal.

Are there any specific orders (other than not taking each other out, obviously)?

You know orders is probably the wrong word. The guys are intelligent and mature and they know that driving into each other is probably the highest risk factor in losing the world championship. A DNF costs a lot of points. There are no orders because they know what to do. We’re trying to maintain (the thought) that the spirit of the team comes first. The team has had really difficult years. Honestly, though, once the visor goes down, that philosophy probably doesn’t exist any more.

And then it comes back to the fact that I want to beat my teammate. In order to beat my teammate, I have to score more points. I’m still optimistic that we will go through the season without any big trouble.

So there’s an implicit respect to finish the race together?

Yes.

At what point would you have to call them into the headmaster’s office?

We do that every day. On a race weekend, we have a meeting every day and between races we do it every week. I don’t feel like a headmaster and they are not schoolboys – they are kindergarten kids . . .

Are you afraid something will happen?

No, because at the moment we have a solid gap to the other drivers and other teams so it looks like we have a margin. I would think our system hadn’t worked if they crash. Part of the philosophy is involving both of them so at the beginning of the season and between races and discussing what really happened? Did we manage it in the right way; could we have managed it in a better way? And we have goals and they are part of the decision-making process. Every week there is new stuff that has to be added – didn’t think of that – but they are part of it.

It is important for us as a team to win the constructors championship. That is target No. 1. As long as a Silver Arrow driver wins the championship we’re happy. It is a situation that could evolve during the season. It could well be that after a certain stage, the way we manage that battle (between the drivers) could change. If we have secured the championship, why not unleash them? Having said that, it is still about one of the largest brands in the world, Mercedes, and we don’t want to look like fools.

EARLIER

All’s well – for the moment – at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve. The sun is out and the Formula One cars are on track for their first practice session – the first of three leading up to tomorrow afternoon’s qualifying session and the race on Sunday afternoon.

This is the first time I have heard the new F1 engine sounds. The critics are correct: these do not sound like Formula One engines. They sound like loud sewing machines.

Noise signifies power. These are among the fastest racing cars in the world and they don’t sound fast – or powerful.

The fans will get used to this de-emphasized sound, of course. The engines are now hybrids, with much of the power coming from electricity, so that explains the non-sound. It’s all good for the environment, I suppose.

One last thing before I leave the subject: the major difference is that you can’t hear the cars coming. Before, you would hear the roar (or the scream) of a car (or cars) approaching and then – wham! – they would zoom into sight.

Now you don’t get that advance sound – the car comes literally out of nowhere and then is gone (you can hear it going away) – and that, to me, is the big difference.

Here’s something else: years ago, at 10 a.m. on the Friday when first practice for the Grand Prix would start, every car entered would hit the circuit running. Now, it’s such a technical exercise, that it is 10:30 a.m. and everybody has taken an “installation” lap (to make sure they’re not leaking anything) but that’s about it. Everybody is in the pits as the engineers use their computers to analyze the data.

So much for seat-of-your-pants driving.

For the record, Lewis Hamilton has the fastest lap so far – a 1:18:088. Then come Rosberg, Alonso, Vergne and Ricciardo. Vettel is ninth.

EARLIER

Good morning from Montreal, site of this weekend’s Grand Prix du Canada.

This blog will keep you up to date on everything that’s happening – and hasa happened – at Circuit-Gilles Villeneuve on Ilse Notre-Dame in the middle of the St. Lawrence River with scenic Montreal as the backdrop.

Unfortunately, things are not so scenic at the moment. Despite a weather forecast of sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-20s, it is dull, overcast and chilly at the circuit.

But the paddock is coming alive, with team members and drivers arriving. The sedans of the Canadian Touring Car Championship are on the track practicing. The Formula One cars will take their first tours at 10 a.m.

Meantime, I’m off for a 9 a.m. appointment with Toto Wolff, executive-director of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. I’m going to ask him how he manages to keep his two drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, teammates and enemies at the same time, under control.

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