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Toto Wolff admits Lewis Hamilton's refusal to yield may have cost Mercedes win

But team boss understands Lewis's resistance, adding "I don’t want to play the vicious general"; Title rivals set to be given more freedom

By William Esler.   Last Updated: 31/07/14 5:30pm

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Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admits Lewis Hamilton’s decision not to let Nico Rosberg past during the Hungarian Grand Prix may have cost the latter victory.

The Silver Arrows put their cars on two different strategies during an unpredictable race in Budapest with Hamilton two-stopping and Rosberg three-stopping.

That meant that Rosberg needed to factor in an additional 22 seconds to his race time, making it critical that he posted quick lap times during his final pair of soft-tyre stints as Hamilton nursed his medium compounds through a mammoth 31 laps to the end. Rosberg’s lap-times dropped off significantly, though, once he got caught up in his team-mate's dirty air.

“It is a difficult situation now and as a team we have to learn how the season pans out now, because if Lewis had let Nico go then Nico could have won the race with a different strategy,” Wolff told reporters.

However, the Austrian quickly added that he understood why Hamilton had ignored the call from the pitwall.

“We needed to split the strategy as it wasn’t clear what was going to happen. One strategy was always going to be better than the other one... you let your team-mate by easily, he wins the race, you lose another eight or ten or 12 points to him and you damage your own campaign,” he continued.

"So I don’t want to play the vicious general and say ‘You must adhere to the rules’ – we could have come over the radio in a harder way, Paddy [Lowe] could have come over radio but he didn’t and it was because it was very difficult to judge what was right and wrong at that stage of the race.”

Perhaps trying to defuse the situation – Wolff admitted some of his responses were “corporate answers” – the Mercedes chief went on to state that the team-orders row was not the only thing to hurt the Silver Arrows' result.

“The team result also suffered from many things that happened in the race – with the Safety Car the top three runners suffered, we had a brake-by-wire issue after the Safety Car came in, lots of things went wrong,” he said. 

“It would be wrong to pin it down on one single situation and say ‘This was the reason why Nico didn’t win the race’. As a matter of fact, when Nico was behind him [Hamilton] the pace dropped and he wasn’t anywhere near overtaking, that is also clear and it wasn’t an obvious case where he was all over him.

“I think there are so many variables that come into the equation that you cannot pin it down to one single factor. It could be one, but we don’t know whether Nico’s pace would have been quick enough to pull the gap which would have helped him to win at the end of the race.”

With a 174-point lead in the Constructors’ Championship over Red Bull following Sunday’s race, Wolff says they may now let their drivers further off the leash from Belgium onwards, rather than asking them to play the team game.

“One of the thoughts we are having that maybe the situation is a bit different to the paper we have written down at the beginning of the season. At the moment we have a 170-something point advantage in the Constructors’ Championship and maybe it is a moment of loosening it a bit in agreement with both of them.

“I think we cannot expect for the second half of the season the drivers to move over to your main competitor. It is probably difficult now.”

Mercedes may be the dominant force in this year’s championship, but Wolff admits he is troubled by the number of failures the team has suffered.

“Yes reliability is our main concern, we had some issues on Lewis’ car in the race again – some fuel pressure problems in the car again which needs to be analysed," he revealed.

"We need to push flat out and understand why these things are happening. At the moment we trying to fix problems and when you are fixing problems you are getting into getting behind things and chasing and you can’t really catch-up. We need to calm down now, analyse things and come back with more power after the summer break.”

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