The intense relationship between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg had become “negative” for Mercedes, according to Toto Wolff.
The team boss insists that he was never really angry at Rosberg – now replaced by Valtteri Bottas – for suddenly calling it quits after winning the 2016 title, despite having a firm contract for 2017 and beyond.
“Not at all,” Wolff told Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.
“I immediately tried to see the opportunity of the situation. On the one hand, Nico was a top performer who pushed himself and his teammate to top performances.
“On the other hand, the rivalry between him and Lewis had become so intense that it was a negative for the team.
“We always had to deal with the things that came up as a result of these animosities rather than taking care of performance issues, which was not good.”
Although names like the fiery Fernando Alonso were mentioned to fill Rosberg’s seat, Mercedes ultimate plumped for the quiet Finn Bottas.
“I’m expecting some quieter times,” admitted Wolff.
“But if Valtteri is really good and the two of them are close to each other, it can be just as difficult, I am under no illusions. Even Bottas knows that he has little time to prove himself.
“We cannot afford to put someone in the car who is not fast enough and doesn’t push Lewis. But his personality played a role. Valtteri is extremely quiet, not political, not manipulative. Pairing him with Lewis is the right combination.”
The 2017 calendar kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.