By Alan Baldwin
MONZA Italy (Reuters) - Mercedes would consider dropping one of their title-chasing Formula One drivers only in a "very, very worst case" scenario that is unlikely to happen, motorsport head Toto Wolff said on Friday.
The Austrian was clarifying comments made in a BBC radio interview when asked what might happen if the pairing of championship leader Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton proved too hot to handle.
The two team mates and Mercedes are the talk of Formula One after Rosberg, who leads Hamilton by 29 points with seven races remaining, hit Hamilton's car at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago.
Speaking at the Italian Grand Prix, Wolff said the context was "what would happen if we could not get on top of the situation.
"We are very happy with the line-up of the two drivers and we've always said that. We trust them and we had a very good discussion with the two of them, a very clear discussion," he added.
"My statements were about what would happen if we couldn't get on top of it and this is something obviously which is a very, very worst case vision and I don't think that we were ever going to get there."
Speaking to the BBC earlier in the week, Wolff had said that "We would have to take decisions and take the consequences of having a different line-up" if the pair continued to clash.
A study by London City University's Cass Business School revealed this week that having "two top drivers competing in the same team had a detrimental effect on their individual performance".
After looking at all races between 1981 and 2010, the authors declared that "putting two roosters in the same henhouse" only eroded the individual performance of team members.
In 2007, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen won the title after McLaren refused to favor Fernando Alonso over Hamilton and ended up with both drivers level on points and the Finn one ahead.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo has won the last two races for Red Bull, his triumph at Spa coming against the odds after Mercedes had started with both their drivers on the front row and expected to finish one-two.
Ricciardo is now 35 points adrift of Hamilton and third overall, with an outside possibility of snatching the title from under the noses of the Mercedes drivers.
"It’s obviously going to take probably more than just winning the next seven races. It’s going to have to take a bit of luck as well," Ricciardo told reporters at Monza.
"I’m more than two wins behind Nico so if I come out and win two and he DNFs (does not finish), he’s still leading. So we’ll see. Obviously there’s more talk about it now but to be honest I’m not really thinking about it."
(Editing by Rex Gowar)