TOTO WOLFF’s attempts to defend Lewis Hamilton earlier this season were challenged by Nico Rosberg.
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Mercedes Team Principal, Toto Wolff, has defended Lewis Hamilton after the Briton’s difficult start to the season. While he has been on the podium twice, he remains behind his teammate George Russell in the drivers’ standings. Wolff said this week that he is not a fan of the way Hamilton has been spoken about. He told Square Mile: “I need to protect him because people have started to hit out at him, which is not right.
“It’s complete nonsense — he’s the greatest driver of all-time. The car is just sub-par.
“George [Russell] has sometimes struggled a bit less because he’s maybe used to driving difficult cars at the back of the grid, but Lewis was unlucky on many occasions.
“He could have scored another two podiums and then the pendulum would have swung.
“So it (the apology) is to make sure that everybody comprehends that the car is not performing and not that the driver is at fault.”
It’s not the first time Wolff has jumped to Hamilton’s defence: in April, the Austrian also backed his driver after the seven-time world champion finished in a disappointing 14th place at Imola.
Toto Wolff news: Rosberg questioned Wolff’s comments (Image: getty)
During the race, former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg said: “Hang on a second.
“Just when you thought for Lewis it can’t get any worse than it is, you’ve got his arch-rival, Max Verstappen, coming from behind, is going to lap him.
“That is going to be painful, and I think for Max, he’s going to have a little smile in his helmet when he goes by.”
After the race, Wolff blamed the car for Hamilton’s struggles, saying: “Sorry for what you have needed to drive today.
“I know this is undriveable and not what we deserve [inaudible], and we move from there. This was a terrible race.”
But Rosberg wasn’t buying it, and responding after the race, the German told Sky Sports: “It’s not quite the truth.
“Let’s remember that [teammate George] Russell is in P4 with that same car. So Lewis definitely had a big role to play in that poor result this weekend.”
READ MORE: Mercedes garage ‘rattled’ as Wolff explains Hamilton engineers change
Toto Wolff news: Hamilton was slow at Imola (Image: getty)
Rosberg was Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes and they shared a tense rivalry during their time with the Silver Arrows.
One of their earliest clashes came in Malaysia in 2013, when Rosberg complained after being ordered to stay behind his teammate.
Then in 2014, Rosberg similarly ignored team orders at Bahrain, fighting Hamilton for the lead in a risky battle which could have ended in a crash.
The following year, their relationship hit a new low when Hamilton won the driver’s title at the US Grand Prix, sparking the famous moment when Rosberg threw his cap at the Briton after the race.
In 2016, they collided at the Spanish Grand Prix, taking each other out of the race.
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Toto Wolff news: Rosberg was Hamilton’s teammate until 2016 (Image: getty)
Toto Wolff news: Rosberg and Hamilton clashed on a number of occasions (Image: getty)
Rosberg won the world championship in the final race that year, but only after Hamilton tried to slow his rival down in controversial fashion.
This week, Rosberg reflected on his years-long rivalry with Hamilton, saying he regrets nothing.
Speaking to Eurosport, he said: “I don’t regret anything from the battle with Lewis.
“That was a sensational time and a mega fight. I’m very proud of that. In the meantime, we’ve returned to neutral, which is okay.”