Lewis Hamilton’s former team-mate Nico Rosberg believes Mercedes and Toto Wolff are managing the pressure of fighting for a world championship battle fight far better than Red Bull this season and believes Max Verstappen’s outburst in Hungary was a direct result of how the team are handling it.
Mercedes and Red Bull are embroiled in a fierce title battle this season, as Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen battle it out to be crowned world champion come the end of the season.
Hamilton now holds the lead by eight points after two torrid weekends for the Milton-Keynes-based team, with Red Bull blaming Mercedes for their bad luck.
But temperatures reached boiling point ahead of the summer break, as Verstappen was left fuming on Thursday after questions surrounding his collision with Hamilton at the British Grand Prix dominated the press conference in Hungary, with the Dutchman refusing to answer any more questions regarding it.
“Can we already stop this,” Verstappen fumed. “We have already had so many f**king questions about this. It is ridiculous, honestly.
“All Thursday we have been answering these stupid questions. Can we stop talking about this, please?”
Susie Wolff delivers verdict on Christian Horner’s row with Mercedes
It came after Red Bull blasted Hamilton, who eventually went on to win the race at Silverstone, with the boss Horner branding him “desperate” and called him a “dirty driver” with chief advisor Helmut Marko calling for Hamilton to serve a race ban for his part in the crash.
Wolff, however, dismissed any suggestion Lewis Hamilton was undeserving of his victory at the British Grand Prix, adding “a win is a win” and that they will “put it on the scorecard and move on.”
Now, the 2016 world champion believes his former boss is starting to show up Red Bull as the “bad guys” in the continued war of words between the teams.
“Management is crucial and Toto has been managing it very well,” Rosberg told Sky F1. “He is really making Red Bull look like more and more the bad guys now with [them] trying to protest and all these things.
“He’s super-smart as well with playing the media game and also internally, really revving everyone up to try and beat them together.”
Tensions were high after the British Grand Prix coming into the race at Hungary – and Rosberg believes the team’s outburst is pulling focus from the job at hand.
“I would say maybe not quite as smart and good in the last couple of days,” Rosberg continued.
“It was not ideal and has maybe also pushed Max to have that outburst [in the qualifying press conference] in the media. So Christian – not ideal, Max – not ideal and it puts you on the back foot.
“Then you don’t qualify very well, Max’s car did have more pace than that, so it all comes together and I would definitely say advantage Hamilton and Mercedes at the moment in a big way.”
Verstappen has yet to win a title, and this is the first time in his career he’s had to deal with the pressure of being “favourite” over a seven-time world champion.
And Rosberg, who had a similar fiery battle with Hamilton across his years at Mercedes, sympathises with the 23-year-old.
He added: “I also wouldn’t underestimate how difficult it is for Max for the first time in his life to be favourite for the World Championship.
“The pressure just exponentially goes up and it’s a difficult thing to manage. We must also remember he’s still very young, even though he’s done seven years in F1, so we could be seeing some moments where it’s just getting to him a little bit.”