The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team is going to spend part of the current summer break trying to resolve the latest internal dispute that has flared up following Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, in which Lewis Hamilton defied team instructions to cede position to teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg.
Rosberg was running directly behind Hamilton before the German’s final stop; the team asked Hamilton – who did not need to pit again – to let Rosberg through for the benefit of his strategy.
Hamilton elected to ignore the repeated instructions and Rosberg eventually peeled into the pits, dropping to seventh before charging back to to fourth behind Hamilton in the last thirteen laps of the race.
It’s a decision that some within the Mercedes camp feel potentially cost Rosberg a shot at victory, although Hamilton wasn’t going to take the issue lying down.
“Just because he had one more stop than me doesn’t mean I wasn’t in the same race as him,” the Englishman said in the FIA post-race press conference.
“And naturally if I’d have let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away and when he does pit, he’s going to come back and overtake me, so I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that, to be able to better his position. But to be honest, he didn’t get close enough to overtake but I was never going to lift off and lost ground to Fernando or Daniel to enable him to have a better race.”
The team’s non-executive chairman, three-time F1 World Champion Niki Lauda, placed himself firmly in the ‘Team Hamilton’ camp by describing the team order as unnecessary.
“The call was unnecessary, afterwards, but it was made,” he said. “Lewis ignored it and finished third, so looking backwards [he did] nothing wrong from my point of view.
“The team was under enormous stress today because the race was a very difficult one, there is no question. Mercedes has been used to being in the lead and racing against each other. This race, with the safety car at the beginning and the wet conditions, was a completely different race. So every minute, six seconds, you had to decide something different.
“In this stress the team told Lewis he should let Nico by because he was on softer tyres and has to come in anyway. But in Lewis’s position he was clear that if he had been in the DRS position, Nico one second behind, for sure he would have let him by. But Nico never got that close. Therefore I do understand that Lewis said ‘Why? Why should I stop now in the middle of the circuit to let my team colleague by?'”
|Hamilton vs Rosberg: Teammates at war?|
|2013 Malaysian GP||Rosberg prevented from overtaking Hamilton for third by team orders|
|2014 Australian GP||Rosberg wins while Hamilton retires with an engine failure|
|2014 Bahrain GP||Hamilton beats Rosberg in a gripping wheel-to-wheel race|
|2014 Spanish GP||Hamilton beats Rosberg for the fourth race running; it later emerged he’d used a more powerful engine map against instruction to keep his teammate at bay|
|2014 Monaco GP||Rosberg claims pole despite sliding off on his final flying lap, ruining Hamilton’s last lap and raising suggestions from the Hamilton camp that his actions were deliberate. The stewards cleared Rosberg of any wrongdoing, and he went on to win the race from Hamilton|
|2014 Canadian GP||Hamilton has his second DNF of the season; Rosberg suffers the same reliability issue but limps to finish second behind Daniel Ricciardo, putting him 32 points clear of Hamilton|
|2014 Austrian GP||Hamilton spins in Q3 and starts ninth. He charges through the field to finish second to race-winner Rosberg|
|2014 British GP||Hamilton throws away a shot at pole position by backing off on his final flying lap; Rosberg earns pole position and looks set to win until he retires with a gearbox failure. Hamilton claims victory and closes to within 4 points of Rosberg’s championship lead.|
|2014 German GP||Hamilton crashes out in Q1 with a brake failure and starts 20th, Rosberg is on pole. Rosberg wins again, while Hamilton climbs up to third place. Rosberg leads by 14 points.|
|2014 Hungarian GP||Hamilton defies team instructions to let Rosberg by in the race; the pair finish third and fourth, with Rosberg’s lead cut to 11 points.|
Not surprisingly, the man most vocal in his displeasure was Rosberg himself, who had his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings trimmed to eleven points.
“It was the team that informed me that he would let me past, that was it,” he said, trying and failing to take the ‘Michael Schumacher defence’ (recall Austria 2002) in claiming that he didn’t request the position change, although a video blog he posted hours after the race suggested otherwise.
“I don’t want to speak theoretically about that situation and think what if. It is better to discuss that in the team. I will sit down with the team and Lewis will be there also, and discuss about the race and see what we can learn from today. We have a great opportunity this year so we need to keep our head down.”
His sentiments were echoed by team chief Toto Wolff, who has indicated that he will get all parties together to clear the air.
“That was such a difficult race with so many difficult decisions that needed to be made, quick decisions, and we need to analyse how we ended up there and whether from here we need to discuss the racing between the two,” he said after Sunday’s race.
“We don’t know whether Nico was quick enough to pull the gap to win the race. It is a difficult situation now. If Lewis had let Nico go, Nico could have won the race. We needed to split the strategies because we didn’t know how the race was going to go.”
“I don’t want to play the vicious general and demand that they obey the rules. I could have gone on the radio or Paddy [Lowe] could but we didn’t. Maybe what we decided at the beginning of the season doesn’t function anymore but we cannot ask either driver to give up positions or jeopardise their own championship chances for the benefit of the team.
“It is getting intense and it is clear that they are direct competitors for the world championship. We need to sit down and discuss it.”
Despite being childhood friends, Hamilton and Rosberg have had a fractured relationship as teammates and this latest incident will do little to repair an already fragile partnership.
Image via IB Times
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