Wolff: Team orders masking reliability issues
31 July 2014 – Toto Wolff reckons the team orders controversy at the Hungarian Grand Prix has masked significant reliability problems at Mercedes that he is eager to address for the second half of the 2014 campaign.
After Sunday's race, the paddock focus was on Lewis Hamilton's refusal to move aside and let team-mate Nico Rosberg through, with the pair ultimately going on to take the chequered flag in third and fourth places.
But Wolff says the primary concern for the Silver Arrows moving forward should be providing both of its drivers with a reliable package, in turn allowing them to race freely in the battle for the Drivers' Championship.
"At the start of the season, [Executive Director, Technical] Paddy [Lowe] and I agreed a clear policy with the drivers that they are free to race for the win – as long as they are fighting for it," Wolff explained during a post-race interview with the official Mercedes website. "Equally, we have been clear that our priority as a team is always to give ourselves the best chance of winning the race – no matter which driver is fighting for it.
"The calls Paddy and the team on the pit wall made were completely in line with our policy. And so, our drivers will continue to be free to race for the remainder of the 2014 championship; and they will be racing to win.
"However, we should also be clear-sighted about the situation: this debate about team orders is obscuring our real problem at the moment, which is reliability. If we give the drivers the opportunity to use the full potential of the car on every lap, then we have the performance to race at the front of the field – and they will be free to race for the win without external factors playing a role. We haven't done that recently and that has given us some headaches. But those problems can be avoided if we do a better job."
Wolff has admitted that both Rosberg and Hamilton came close to retiring from the Hungaroring race.
"It was nerve-wracking. With each car, there was a point when we didn't think they could finish," he said.
"For Nico, it was behind the first Safety Car when it looked like the brake system had failed. With Lewis, it was when he started losing fuel pressure – and power – as he was running behind Fernando [Alonso], with Nico closing in. We were hoping he could make it to the finish – but we expected the problem would be terminal."
Wolff added that Hamilton's qualifying fire was caused by a localised fatigue failure in a high-pressure fuel hose, although the precise reasons behind this fatigue are still being investigated at the team's Brackley base.