Mercedes-Benz team chief Toto Wolff forecast that Nico Rosberg will bounce back stronger next year from his desert duel defeat by Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s title showdown Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In the wake of Hamilton’s triumph, and clinching of his second drivers’ world title, at the Yas Marina circuit, Wolff also pointed to the strong and respectful rivalry that underpins their relationship as team-mates.
Rosberg went into the race starting from pole position and seeking to overturn Hamilton’s 17-point lead in the title race with double points on offer for the first time. But after a poor start, he was unable to respond to Hamilton’s pace and gradually fell down the running order after being hit by a succession of car problems. Rosberg finished 14th. “We know that Lewis’ talent is enormous and you can see that with 11 race victories,” said Wolff. “But both of them have grown as personalities and as drivers this year.
“Don’t expect Nico to give up and not to come back. He has got to lick his wounds and try to learn for next year and bounce back. I think both of them are going to be great competitors and fighting each other next year.” He added that Rosberg’s success in out-performing Hamilton in qualifying was one reason for his belief in the future.
“Lewis’s best thing is qualifying and Nico has beaten him so I expect them to race hard and fight each other next year.” Rosberg’s hopes in Sunday’s race were due to a loss of power as his Energy Recovery System (ERS) failed.
“For the team, it is a bitter-sweet outcome,” added Wolff. “We have worked so hard to make the cars reliable and there was so much diligent work in the background and then we have a problem on a car.
“I don’t think it would have changed the outcome as Nico had a really bad start and the odds were against him at that stage anyway. “Both cars finishing the race one-two would have been better, but it is arrogant to say that. We must be happy we have a worthy world champion.” Wolff was especially pleased at the manner in which his team’s two drivers behaved after the race.
“You could see in that moment in the room, when Nico came up, that the rivalry was so intense, but there is an underlying long-lasting history and a relationship between the two of them — and they respect each other and honour each other,” he said.
“It was intense and it is going to be intense next year, we are going to have ups and downs, situations which are going to be difficult to manage. “But if two drivers are fighting for a world championship in the same team you cannot expect harmony all the time. It is completely normal.”