Wolff absence leads to Mercedes driver clash

Toto Wolff has a task on his hands once he returns from his absence to lead the Mercedes team at grands prix again.

Team boss and co-owner Wolff began his absence with the Japanese grand prix recently – ostensibly to recover from knee surgery.

But thousands of kilometres away from him, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell almost crashed into one another – and were ultimately called to order from the remote pitwall that Wolff has set up inside his home.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Wolff told Osterreich newspaper a few days ago. “We’re not fighting for a win or a title at the moment, but for the golden pineapple.

“When the drivers try to push the limits, there is a call to order. At the end, I made that call.”

After the Japan absence, Wolff, 51, says he overdid his knee rehabilitation and was told by his doctor that he could not fly to Qatar.

And it was there, at the Losail circuit, that the unthinkable happened – Hamilton and Russell crashed at the first corner. Hamilton, who retired with three wheels only on his car, admitted the blame.

“I hope there were no objects in Toto’s reach, or they may need to operate on the knee again,” joked former F1 driver Alex Wurz on the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Russell insisted there are “no hard feelings”, and Mercedes posted a video showing the two British drivers hug it out.

But Ralf Schumacher told Sky Deutschland: “There’s a bit of work to be done between the two of them now. The team will need to intervene, and they will.”

However, it’s a very different story compared to Hamilton’s former and intense rivalry with Nico Rosberg, as the pair despised one another and were fighting right at the front.

2016 title winner Rosberg said at Qatar after the Hamilton-Russell clash: “There’s not much to discuss actually because it was relatively one-sided.

“Lewis apologising doesn’t happen often, but it’s also rarely this clear.

“Perhaps Toto needs to have a word with them. It’s unfortunate that Niki (Lauda) is missing now, as he was always the first mediator.

“Wherever Niki was in the world, Lewis and I had to go to him. Niki always tried to mediate so that we met in the middle.

“In this case, Lewis is clearly at fault, so Toto has to reprimand him.”

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