Where does Nico Rosberg go from here?
The interesting thing about Toto Wolffs comments though, is he says he would change either of his drivers if their actions is damaging to the team. The thing that l am trying to fathom is what sort of actions that may have transpired this year by either driver, may be construed as damaging to the Mercedes team? Of course we don't know what happens behind the scenes in the garage. On track, l wonder if questioning the pitwall decision is perceived as damaging or what is said at driver press post race interviews.I agree with you, Bagwan, in that if the guy writing the check (sort of) says that there is a problem, then there is a problem... within the team, at least. But I think it's more likely that Mercedes and Wolff are playing the long game here, looking ahead to 2017 and beyond, when the gap to Ferrari, and maybe Red Bull and others, will have probably closed. Both Hamilton and Rosberg scored enough points individually this year that even with Susie Wolff in the second car, Mercedes would have still captured 3rd place in the Constructors Championship. With this dominant monster of a car, either one of them, paired with a roughly competent second driver, could have probably delivered a Constructors trophy, which is what Mercedes really cares about. But once the gap closes (and it will), the question becomes, what driver lineup can still deliver the big annual trophy at the end of a season? Against a Vettel (or whomever) in a strong car, we know from past history that Hamilton can go wheel to wheel. We don't know that about Rosberg. We only know that on occasion he can deliver the goods. So despite his season ending form, if I'm looking at the long game, and also knowing the Nico's contract is up at the end of next season, I don't think that I'd be too confident, if I were Nico.
Hamilton's deal runs through the end of 2018, if I'm not mistaken. And while they could play with whether or not Lewis is on track in a silver car, Mercedes will still be writing him a $50 million (or whatever) check every year. IMO, they could just as easily find another, more obedient second driver to pair with Hamilton... unless Nico learns to sing "Don't Worry, Be Happy". My guess is, as Nico starts negotiating his new post-2016 contract in a few months, there will be terms in his new deal which will "encourage" him to sing along to that old Bobby McFerrin album. However it pans out, I think Mercedes is going to have to find a way to quieten things down between these two before the heated battle of 2017 and beyond begins.
It just smacks of overreaction to me and a clear frustration with managing an equal status driver lineup. This year has on occasion looked like Merc were fostering someone else's unruly children and have had enough. Abu Dhabi was pretty ugly. The pitwall were quite heavy handed with Hamilton. The business with engine level seemed like Hamilton and his pitwall engineers were not on the same page. One can deduce from Monaco 2014 that Hamilton has some level of doubt of his pitwall engineers. The seemingly fractured relationship seem to have reached a point where it has spilled over into the public domain. This maybe what Wolff is uncomfortable with.
So if we say Toto has a situation where their star driver is losing or has lost faith in his engineers, how does he deal with that situation? Does he fire his star driver? or does he change his star driver's engineers to ensure he gets the best performance from him? I think Toto's comments reveals that Mercedes have a bigger internal problem besides the rivalry between Hamilton and Rosberg. It also reveals the Hamilton's drop of performance since Singapore is more than just changes to the car. It hints at operational issues on the Hamilton side of that garage that may underline the dramatic loss of form witnessed in Hamilton.
If this is the case, we could speculate that Mercedes' view on approach to the season has moved from that of Hamilton, there may be a misalignment that could result in Hamilton being dropped from the team. This of course would depend largely on what the Mercedes aspiration is. We can assume that they would still want to win both championships in Hamilton's absence if they decide to go in this direction. And they would need to retain Rosberg for his experience within the team and how close he was able to get to Hamilton. And they are hoping that Ferrari turn up with a car that is still less competitive to the Mercedes in 2016. And Rosberg can keep it together for the entire season without mistakes to secure both championships by the end of the 2016 season. This, l think would be an unneccessary risk, and l am not implying that Rosberg is unable to win a driver championship with the Mercedes. But objectively, a proven driver would be the way to go and parity status aside. l think it is time for Mercedes to wake up to the fact that, they cannot have parity status between a triple world champion and a driver yet to win a driver title, it is simply ridiculous. They need to win two more championships to match Redbull at least for the Mercedes return to F1 to achieve a status of a great modern day F1 team.
As far as dropping Rosberg is concerned, l don't see the point. They have a dream driver lineup. They need a driver that can deliver if the other driver is not. Having a driver that can push Hamilton, beat him on occasions or be within a tenth of Hamilton is where Rosberg is indispensible. A change of one of their driver lineup would mean having someone who would be learning the Mercedes in their first yeas hence would most likely be about half a second down from Hamilton or Rosberg, which would put Vettel closer to the hunt for the title championship. This is a very risky proposition. My guess is they would not change a winning formular, but tweak it by keeping both their drivers but change their internal composition. I agree with you that equal status may be thrown out as it is not working and distracting for the team. I also agree that a triple world champion is not going to be made a number 2 driver within Mercedes. Which begs the question, how is Rosberg going to react to a number 2 status?