Nico Rosberg has laughed off Toto Wolff’s claim he was “the vicious one” when his relationship with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes imploded.
Rosberg and Hamilton’s clashes on and off the track were the dominant narrative around the last three F1 seasons ahead of Rosberg’s shock retirement as reigning world champion in December.
Boyhood friends turned title foes, Hamilton and Rosberg finished the year barely on speaking terms and it’s understood that just days after the two Mercedes drivers crashed out of last May’s Spanish GP.
Asked who was the “real schemer” inside the Mercedes garage, Wolff told : “The one who is no longer here. The vicious one. Nico just tried to use all the weapons he had. There were all the psycho games that you can play to destabilise your rival.
“Each year there was a biggie that had a major impact on their relationship. When you operate at that high level as a sportsman you are certainly sensitive. Both were. It affected them both.”
Mercedes warned both of their warring drivers unless their relationship improved with the team’s march to the summit of F1 pockmarked by a series of ugly controversies as their warring drivers threatened to self-destruct.
But while Rosberg’s exit and replacement by Valtteri Bottas has coincided with a calmer and friendlier atmosphere developing within the team, Rosberg has insisted he isn’t fazed by Wolff’s reported depiction.
“This chapter is closed for me,” said Rosberg. “It’s funny because it just doesn’t affect me. I won my battle. I just hope we can laugh together again one day.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton, who heads into this week’s Azerbaijan GP trailing title leader Sebastian Vettel by 12 points, has been described as being “in the best place I have seen him during any of the last five years since he joined the team” by Wolff.
“Not only because he had a great weekend in Montreal but because he is coping so well with the difficult days,” added the Mercedes chief. “This is what the very best are made of. When the fight gets tough, they get over it quickly and maximise their opportunities.”
Don’t miss the Azerbaijan GP live on Sky Sports F1 on Sunday – lights out for the race is at 2pm.