Former Grand Prix driver Mark Webber has criticised the management of the Mercedes team in its handling of its two championship aspirants, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
The Silver Arrows have dominated the 2014 Formula 1 season so far with nine race wins and a 150-point lead in the Constructors’ Championship standings, while its drivers are engaged in an ever-spiteful battle for Drivers’ Championship honours.
Their time as teammates has been dogged by a series of controversies, with the latest installment coming at last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix where Rosberg punctured Hamilton’s left-rear tyre in a botched passing move for the lead on the second lap of the race.
The contact ruined Hamilton’s race, while Rosberg suffered a damaged front wing. The German’s loss of pace proved to be a stroke of luck for Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, who snuck through to claim his third win of the season and improve his rather slim chances of claiming the Drivers’ Championship title for himself.
Rosberg managed to finish second – Hamilton eventually retired his ill-handling car – to extend his points lead to 29 over the Englishman, who derided Rosberg’s claims that the contact was accidental. Incredibly, the FIA has refused to act on the allegations by opening an investigation into the matter.
Webber – who retired from Grand Prix racing at the end of last year to headline Porsche’s LMP return to the World Endurance Championship – is himself no stranger to intra-team conflict, having spent the best part of five seasons as Sebastian Vettel’s whipping boy at Red Bull Racing.
Speaking on the Red Bull sponsored Sport und Talk show – in a broadcast clearly designed for a bit of saber-rattling – Webber pointed to a clear lack of cohesion within the team, and warned that it could prove their undoing in their quest for a championship title double.
“It’s not a team, it looks like the drivers are doing their own thing,” he said in the broadcast.
“When they get to the track, they’ll only be thinking about each other. They are really only focused on beating each other, and that’s what happens when you have a car that is so dominant.
“The drivers know that the Constructors’ is done, so all that’s left is the Drivers’ championship.”
The Australian warned that the conflict could irreparably damage the relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg, who were friends since childhood.
He even went as far as to speculate whether Mercedes would – or even could – retain its current driver pairing next year.
“We have a very difficult situation at Mercedes where the drivers are not enjoying a good relationship. It’s going to be interesting, not just for the rest of this year but can they drive together in the future? Is it OK for 2015 for the team to have the two together?” he added.
“The thing is, who is going to try to put this back together? Is it the people who pay Niki [Lauda] and Toto [Wolff’s] wages? At the end of the day, if the drivers are not listening to these guys, do they have to say, ‘Lewis and Nico, you go chat to the big guys at Mercedes, as they’re paying you to get the job done in a team environment’.”
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