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Formula 1 United States GP

Wolff: My F1 absence didn’t trigger “unpleasant situations” between Mercedes drivers

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff insists the “unpleasant situations” between his drivers in recent Formula 1 races was not linked to his absence.

Jerome d'Ambrosio, Driver Development Director, Mercedes-AMG, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG, watch the monitors

The Austrian was forced to skip both the recent Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix as a result of knee surgery required following a training accident.

While Wolff kept a close eye on proceedings from back at home while he recovered, it was noted that at both events there appeared to be public tension between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

In Suzuka, Hamilton and Russell came close to colliding in their fight for positions before some heated radio messages late in the race about team orders. Then, at Losail, the pair collided at the first turn.

Wolff said Mercedes has internally joked about the driver troubles kicking off while the boss was away, but he was clear there was no link.

“I don't think so,” he said, when asked by Motorsport.com if his absence had been a factor. “We've laughed about that, too, in the team. But I don't think it has an effect.

“I think we are racing more in the front now, and I think we have a sniff on how it is looking like to have no car in front of you, with the McLarens and with Max [Verstappen] there.

“So, yeah, in any case, we'll never find out. I'm back.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, the field as Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, ends up in the gravel on the opening lap after contact with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, the field as Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, ends up in the gravel on the opening lap after contact with George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

The incidents between Hamilton and Russell have not been brushed under the carpet though, and Wolff said the team had addressed any potential fallout behind closed doors.

“There were some, let's say, unpleasant situations that we have talked about, and lots of points that we left on the table – but there is nobody more aware than the drivers,” he said.

“Sometimes you need these moments to recalibrate and recondition and avoid similar situations in the future.

“But they're racing drivers; they compete hard. Your first competitor is your team-mate, and therefore, I see it with a relative relaxed stance. And I'm back.”

While Wolff kept a close eye on proceedings from his home in Monaco, he said he had to deliberately back away from getting too involved because that would have been unfair on those working at the track.

“I was completely plugged in,” he said. “I have a centre console set up at home, so I was part of every briefing, debriefing, and the conversations during the race.

“But obviously you've got to let the guys here fly the airplane. When you're remote, I always take myself back a little bit because you're distant.

“You don't look into the faces. You don't see what's going on emotionally with the people around you and you feel in a certain way detached. So, it's not something that I enjoy. But it was a necessity.”

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