Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has denied that his absence at the previous two rounds contributed to the clashes between its two drivers.

Prior to returning at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, Wolff had been forced to miss both the Japanese and Qatar Grands Prix after requiring surgery on his knee.

During his time away, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton got extremely close to making contact at Suzuka before the British pair proceeded to collide at Turn 1 in Qatar.

Hamilton would retire from the opening lap touch at the Lusail International Circuit, while Russell rued missing out on a potential victory despite recovering to fourth.

Wolff, who remained engaged in meetings from home, believes there is no direct correlation between his time away and the simmering on-track tensions at Mercedes.

When asked if there was a possible link between the two, Wolff said: “I don’t think so. We’ve laughed about that, too, in the team. But I don’t think it has an effect.

“I think we are racing more in the front now, and I think we have a sniff on how it is looking like to have no car in front of you, with the McLarens and with Max [Verstappen] there.

“So, yeah, in any case, we’ll never find out. I’m back.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 crashes out at the start of the race.
08.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 18, Qatar Grand Prix, Doha, Qatar, Race Day.
–, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

However, Wolff has addressed that the two “unpleasant” incidents have been dealt with internally behind closed doors to best prevent a repeat scenario from materialising.

“There were some, let’s say, unpleasant situations that we have talked about, and lots of points that we left on the table – but there is nobody more aware than the drivers,” he added.

“Sometimes you need these moments to recalibrate and recondition and avoid similar situations in the future.

“But they’re racing drivers; they compete hard. Your first competitor is your team-mate, and therefore, I see it with a relative relaxed stance. And I’m back.”

Mercedes’ prospects this weekend in Austin have been bolstered by the addition of a revised floor to its W14 – the German outfit’s “last big update for the 2023 season.

Hamilton was pleased with the progress made with its latest part, documenting that it’s “one of the first upgrades that I’ve felt over the last two years.”

The seven-time World Champion eventually wound up third in qualifying on Friday evening, just over a tenth shy of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who bagged pole position.

Meanwhile, George Russell was perplexed by struggles that left him “off the pace”, ending up relieved to escape an early Q2 exit on his way to clocking the fifth fastest time.

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