By Alan Baldwin
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the rivalry between team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is like a volcano ready to erupt ahead of Formula One’s season-ending title showdown this weekend.
The Austrian is, however, confident the drivers can avoid taking each other out of Sunday’s race at Yas Marina.
“It is also clear, and we have to acknowledge it, that now everything is on the line,” Wolff told reporters at the Abu Dhabi circuit.
“Now it’s about losing or winning the drivers’ world championship. They can’t be in love with each other this weekend but they need to play all the tricks to put themselves in a situation to hopefully win the championship.
“You just have to respect that there is a fierce rivalry, the competition is intense and like since 2013 we just have to try to keep it together with up and downs,” Wolff said.
There have been plenty of mind games already with Hamilton saying he would consider himself the true champion, regardless of the outcome, while Rosberg has been adamant that he is just focused on the race.
“It’s normal that here this is like a volcano to erupt with two of them, the two very different personalities. One is going to dig a little deeper, the other one is going to do it in a different way,” Wolff added.
Rosberg is 12 points clear of Hamilton in the standings, meaning that he has only to finish on the podium to take his first title regardless of other results.
A retirement by triple world champion Hamilton during the race, whether it be due to mechanical failure or a collision, would hand the German the title there and then.
Formula One titles have been settled before by a collision between the contenders — think Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost or Michael Schumacher with Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve — but Wolff played down that likelihood.
“There are some examples in the past that have been very prominent and very controversial. Lewis’s hero (Senna), and the other way around,” he said.
“I think it is very difficult to construct such a situation and make it work. I don’t think that’s the way Nico operates and it would certainly not look very good. There are so many unknowns at the moment. It’s about reliability and finishing the race for both of them.
“It is about qualifying, who is in the lead and how the race is going to pan out, that I don’t think anyone of them is seriously considering playing that way, because it could come out completely different.”
(Editing by John O’Brien)