Wolff defends Mercedes over instructions to Hamilton


Mercedes chief Toto Wolff defended the team's decision to issue instructions to Lewis Hamilton over the radio in his Formula One title decider with team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton needed to make up a 12-point gap to secure a third consecutive championship, but his race win in Abu Dhabi on Sunday was not enough as Rosberg finished second to win the title for the first time.

In order to try and cut the gap between Rosberg and the chasing pack, Hamilton intentionally slowed the pace from the front, a plan that seemingly did not impress the Mercedes hierarchy.

After Hamilton had ignored instructions to pick up the pace from his race engineer, Mercedes executive director Paddy Lowe took to the airwaves himself to tell Hamilton to up the ante, a request that drew short shrift from the Briton.

Sky Sports pundit and ex-F1 driver Johnny Herbert was critical of Mercedes, insisting Hamilton and Rosberg should have been left to race.

Yet Wolff - the head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport - said the team were merely trying to avoid a scenario where they did not win, with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen of Red Bull close behind.

"There is the control freak team leader that has a rule book and everyone has to obey ... but then there is a racer in me and I was questioning myself, what would I have done," Wolff told Sky Sports.

"He had two choices. That's [backing up] what he decided to do. Nico kept it very cool under pressure. It's difficult to have solutions for every situation.

"We could let them off the leash completely, the consequence would be that we would be losing races and losing championships.

"We calculated we would lose the race win so we decided to interfere."

Lowe acknowledged that Hamilton's tactics had caused plenty of nerves on the pit wall.

He added: "I don't want to comment too much on the subject, because who knows, we weren't driving the car.

"Who knows what the real pace is of a car when you're not driving it. It did present some challenges in the end.

"It was nail-biting stuff for us on the pit wall. Those final two laps, would he [Vettel in third] get through Nico, or even Lewis. We don't often see four cars crossing the line within however many seconds it was."

Lowe was thrilled to see Rosberg celebrating on the podium, describing the German as a deserving champion.

"[It is] absolutely amazing - to come through three such amazing seasons - I think it's really nice and balanced that both drivers have got a drivers' championship," he said.

"[I am] very, very happy with Nico and he's a deserving world champion."