In all likelihood the Australian GP will quickly develop into a battle between Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, which begs the question will they be allowed to race?
Given the potential challenges of fuel consumption, tyre durability and of course reliability a team boss could be forgiven for imposing orders, especially when his cars have such a big advantage over the rest. Why waste a guaranteed one-two when the cars are still potentially fragile by risking retirement?
Mercedes has had some issues in the past, notably in Malaysia last year when Rosberg was told to sit behind a fuel saving Hamilton, but team boss Toto Wolff says his drivers won’t be reined in this year.
“They are completely free to race, because this is why we’re here,” said Wolff. “You need to establish rules if you have somebody in the car who doesn’t understand the concept maybe, or is just looking at himself. But I don’t think this is the case with Lewis and Nico. We’ve had some discussions about it, and I don’t think this going to be an issue or a problem.
“I think if you look back at Malaysia last year it was a bit of a perfect storm for us. We were caught out by surprise running third and fourth, then Lewis ran into a bit of a problem, and then Nico caught up, and we weren’t quite sure if Nico would run into a problem, and he got a call, which was quite a direct call, and maybe we would do it in a different way today. This is why it was a tricky and difficult situation to manage.”
Wolff insisted that the ground rules are flexible: “I think it’s very difficult to establish parameters and say that whoever has the first corner stays in front. We’re not doing this. We had a long discussion with Paddy and the boys. It was a very good discussion, and everybody gave his opinion on how we should proceed, and we defined that even if this is difficult to comprehend, where we came from as a team, our main competitors are the other teams. And then we need to make sure that as a team we are running strongly.
“And then it’s to be decided on a case-by-case what’s going in in the cars. I think it could go one race in one direction, and the other race in the other direction. I think pretty much all possible situations we have discussed and found a solution which is acceptable to Nico and to Lewis, and the team.”
Meanwhile Rosberg admitted that the key thing was that everything had been discussed and possible scenarios planned for.
“That is the main thing, yes, it’s to really have a clear picture of what’s going on. I can already, that’s important for the TV, for everybody, for us as a team. That’s exciting, that’s what we’re here for. But within certain limits. Of course you can’t go crazy as team mates because at the same time we’re both racing for Mercedes, we’re both here to have great success for Mercedes, and help bring Mercedes to the front of F1.
“At the same time we want to go racing, have a good time, and do some exciting stuff on track, so we need to find the fine line, and we have done so with preparing for it. We’ve really gone through it in detail, so we know what to expect, and that’s the most important thing. Once everybody knows what he has to do, you’re good to go.”