NURBURGRING, GERMANY (AFP) - Retired driver Nico Rosberg has warned that if Toto Wolff quits as Mercedes chief, it could have an effect on Lewis Hamilton's future and mark a downturn for the team.
Wolff has guided Mercedes to six consecutive constructors' titles, but the Austrian has hinted that he is ready to move on.
Rosberg, who won the 2016 drivers' world championship with Mercedes and is the only one to have interrupted the Briton's run of supremacy since 2014, believes Wolff's uncertain future is a reason for Hamilton's reluctance to sign a new contract.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 at the Eifel Grand Prix, he said: "I do think it matters because Lewis is very convinced that Toto is an integral part of the success of that team, which is true, because Toto absolutely is.
"And it's not guaranteed that if Toto goes and there is a new leader that the stability remains.
"Also, if Toto goes, it could potentially have a spiralling effect so that many of the team leaders in leading positions say 'ok, it's the end of an era...Toto's going, I loved to work with him, now let's also move on to something new'.
"That could be a really bad turn of events for the team."
Hamilton's future has been surrounded by speculation, while Wolff has declined to confirm he will remain as team boss at Mercedes next year.
VETTEL'S 'REAR-END' PROBLEM
Rosberg also suggested that fellow-German and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will have a good opportunity to rebuild his career and reputation at Aston Martin next year after losing confidence in a car that did not suit him at Ferrari.
"These cars are much more nervous than we've ever seen," he explained. "The rear sometimes just snaps and you can't feel it - and that takes confidence from drivers.
"I think he's gone into a big negative spiral. Things start small, one big mistake when you're in the lead at Hockenheim, another one here, another one there and then it starts to become an avalanche.
"It spirals negatively and the more negative you are mentally, the more doubtful you are - and the more mistakes you do.
"The team also has (Charles) Leclerc as their god and he's (Vettel) not the god any more. That's also a big spiral downwards and a big shock...
"Aston Martin is a huge opportunity for him. He's going to be god again in that team. The car is fast and he can have success and a positive mental spiral.