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Mercedes bosses accept that team orders aren’t going to work in tight title battle
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Lewis Hamilton leads Nico Rosberg
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Jul 2014   |  3:06 pm GMT  |  348 comments

“If Lewis had let Nico go, Nico could have won the race with a different strategy.”

So said Toto Wolff, the Mercedes F1 team CEO, addressing the team orders row that was one of the main taking points of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton was asked by his team to let Nico Rosberg through with 24 laps to go in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix and didn’t heed the call. Hamilton was on a long final stint on medium tyres, not needing to stop again, Rosberg on a three stop strategy had another stop to make.

To be clear, it is normal practice in modern F1 to let a team mate by if you are two stopping and he is three stopping; we see it all the time. This is not exactly a team order, it’s more of an agreement between the team and its drivers, a protocol.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

It happens usually when a team splits the strategies, especially common when the situation is unclear as to which is the best route to go – on a messy complicated day, like Sunday, with rain and safety cars – and splitting strategies offers the best chance of getting at least one ideal outcome.

This was the situation with Mercedes in Hungary. Hamilton had taken new soft tyres at the first stop, Rosberg used softs. Hamilton was able to get to lap 39 before stopping again, which put him into the window to take the medium tyres and run to the end of the race.

Rosberg had to stop on lap 32, too soon to do anything other than take softs again, committing him to making another stop before the end of the 70 lap race.

Where team orders have been controversial in the past, is where teams have asked drivers on the same strategy to move over.

What was controversial about Sunday was that the matter involves two drivers fighting each other – and no-be else – for a world championship. In that context eery point counts and it is debatable whether that was a reasonable thing to ask Hamilton. Also the fact that it was his engineer who asked him, rather than the management figures, Wolff himself or Paddy Lowe, undermined the power of the command

Rosberg had 14 point lead before the race and now it’s down to 11 points.

So you can see why Hamilton was reluctant, even though he knew that this was one of those circumstances which the team had agreed earlier in the season, the drivers would be asked to move over for.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg

“I was thinking: ‘I’m in this race, I don’t understand why I have to let him past,'” Hamilton said. “I’m sure the team did it for the right reasons.
“If I had let him past when they asked me, he would have caught me with a couple of laps to go, for sure.”

Mercedes F1 team chairman Niki Lauda backed Hamilton up, ” He did the right thing ignoring the order. We will forget this episode in a hurry.”

For his part Rosberg said, “I didn’t ask for team orders, it was the team (who made the call).”

Many fans here have pointed out that Hamilton held up Rosberg for nine laps and that wrecked Rosberg’s three stop strategy, meaning that he wasn’t able to make the most of his fresher tyres and challenge Daniel Ricciardo for the win at the end. Others have argued that it was wrong of Mercedes to ask Hamilton and they should have let the strategies play out with no outside assistance.

Toto Wolff now accepts that this was the wrong card to play and clearly there have been behind the scenes conversations where it has been agreed that in the interests of fairness, they should let the drivers get on with it, even if they are on different strategies because the team has decided to operate it that way.

“I don’t want to play the vicious general and say ‘ you must adhere to the rules’ – we could have come over the radio in a harder way, Paddy (Lowe, Mercedes operations chief) could have come over radio, but he didn’t and it was because it was very difficult to judge what was right and wrong at that stage of the race, ” said Wolff.

“We will not have that situation again because we will try to learn. We cannot expect the drivers in the second half of the season to move over for their main competitor.”

“We need to analyse how we ended up there and we need to again discuss the racing between the two. It is getting intense.

“You let your team-mate by and he wins and you lose another eight or 10 points, you damage your own campaign.”

Mercedes are keen to avoid accusations of favouritism towards Rosberg, the German driver in the team.

* Watch out for our UBS Race Strategy Report tomorrow here on JA on F1, where we will analyse the decisions and the behind the scenes situations which made Sunday’s race, with help and insight from some of the leading teams’ strategists.

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1

Fry said: “The big thing for me is that Lewis should be given the credit for the move, because he made the decision. He was smart enough to realise that the team that could design and develop the chassis and the power plant as one unit, with all the complexities that involved, would have a big advantage in 2014.” But it all started, in Italy, eight years ago.

2

If I’m correct F-1 has regulations against team orders, if in fact F-1 enforced its rules fairly and consistently there would be no issue here one would think.

3

In the past it seems that drivers respected team-orders much more than they do today. Even if they didn’t like it they obeyed because they knew that the team came first. To win championship you need a good car. A good car costs money. The teams income is dependent by a team effort for both cars (see Ferrari for the last couple of years).

But since last year we had Vettel, Massa and Lewis disobeying teamorders without the team responding to this. At the contrary the teams had taken the responsibility instead.

James do you think that this generation of drivers are more selfish and don’t see it in the long run?

If I remember correctly Alonso/Lewis-gate started when Lewis broke a deal. To me it seems like Lewis again don’t see the long run. Either Lewis or Nico will obey teamorders the rest of the year. And Lewis will suffer because Nico is german in a german team and showed them that he can deliver for less money.

Do you James think that Lewis is out when his contract expires, especially when he wants 90$ for 3 years comparing to Nico’s 55$.

James, is their any famous cases when drivers disobeyed teamorders in the past and whay happened behind closed doors then?

4

I think Hamilton will have some other offers, can’t say whether he will leave

Would be tough to walk away from a dominant car. Mansell did it but not many others..

5
kenneth chapman

i would be amazed if hamilton left mercedes. nowhere else would he get a car like the one he currently drives. in 2016 maybe, 2015 no way. there will be quite some changes allowed for 2015 but that applies equally to all manu’s. the mercedes has a monumental advantage and that will not be easily challenged.

as for the team orders debate there appears to be a mixed reaction and mercedes need to make some clear distinctions. either they enforce the team orders or they completely walk away from them. there is no middle ground.

what happened in hungary proved that the team principal does not have the ultimate authority. this is similar to horner’s situation in malaysia where he repeatedly used ‘weasel words’ to rein in vettel’s blatant disregard of the team orders. when vettel apologised to horner/webber and the team, one week later he recanted and horner stayed ‘strangely’ silent!!! so where will wolff now hide? i thought for a while that he was an extremely strong character and well suited to his position but he is now a weak leader who has had his authority challenged and is left wanting.

one final word that has nothing to do with the topic. james….is there any reason why the email post notifications seem to have vanished?

6

James, what if it wasn’t Hungary. Say it would have been Hockenheim instead and Mercedes homeyard. Would Lewis dared doing the same and would the teams lame reaction been the same. I don’t think Mercedes would have liked sacrified a win and get a 3-4 on hometurf. Whats your opinion on that?

7

Easier to pass at Hockenheim, different situation

8

Both drivers must be allowed to have their own strategist to maximise their chances, even if the strategies mirror each other exactly. At the moment, the lead car gets the best strategy with the second car getting the second option, but amazingly the drivers are not allowed to change strategy during a race which could have many variables i.e. safety cars or weather which is crazy. If Hamilton had had his own strategist for Hungary he would have been put on the best strategy immediately by his strategist during the race which might have won him the race. This is where Mercedes made the mistake. They have an unworkable rigid formula that does not work, which then penalises the more aggressive driver, especially when that driver can bring a change to a better strategy option back into play with his driving ability which is exactly what Hamilton did in Hungary.

9

What I find utterly shameless and extremely embarrassing for Mercedes is the fact the team expected Hamilton to move aside for Rosberg, with Toto Wolf saying Hamilton cost Rosberg the win. My questions to him would be, did Hamilton not earn the right to go for the win considering he had earned his track position during the race or was it decided beforehand that Hamilton race was all about damage limitation regardless of the changing variable during the race? The changing variables along with his driving ability clearly favoured Hamilton during the race so why did Mercedes not recognise this fact and do everything possible to allow Hamilton to win the race?

10

Did Lewis have a pair of soft tyres left? I was just thinking that if it was quicker for Rosberg to come in again when he was behind Lewis and being “held up”, couldn’t Lewis have just said I will match that strategy too, so no need to let him past? Am I missing something?

In any event, as a Stevenage boy I’m hugely behind Lewis but I must say I have been very impressed with Rosberg as well this year.

11

This year Mercedes is a merit of previous year Brawn’s work. In longer perspective the team with so many bosses is going to collapse into the problems. Like Ferrari got some mess within organization after Todt and dropped down with results.

12
Tornillo Amarillo

Mercedes will win the WCC, they do more points in Hungary and the Mercedes drivers were bravely fighting the WDC with strategies, SCs, tires, track position. So everything is completed, and the Ricciardo win or Alonso 2nd is merely incidental…

If HAMILTON started from pit lane and got a podium, the team has nothing to say! However, ROSBERG had another unbeatable Mercedes and he got only P4.

But what a show of that rocket in the last 10 laps!

13

The Mercedes bosses have really made a mess of things. All that rhetoric about no team orders and letting them race. What a bunch of hogwash and Nico Rosberg is a girl. All that talk about wanting to fight it out with Lewis on track. He had his shot and all he could do was ask “Why isn’t Lewis letting me through”? (lol) and another thing he was not going to win that race. He was not going to overtake both Alonso or Ricciardo. That race was all but decided. I have lost a lot of respect for Rosberg.

14

after the first safety car, Nico 5th, Lewis 13th. Nico on 3-stop, Lewis on 2 stop.

Strategy, Nico 3 “qualifying lap” stints.

Strategy, Lewis 2 “nurse tires home” stints.

End of Nico’s “qualifying lap” stints. Lewis is 2 seconds behind.

Nico fail due to his inability to gap Lewis in his first stint. His 2nd stint, spent half the time catching up, the 2nd half asking for Lewis to pull over.

Nico’s failure to gap Lewis on the FIRST of his 3 “qualifying lap” stints is the reason he was behind.

15

I have always thought that Nico was a great driver, just how good we may be about to find out in the second half of the season.. There are one or two things that have got me puzzled about the “let him pass” scenario , everybody has their opinion But, hasn’t Nico just resigned and has been brining all over his face about it, I wonder just what the terms were.? Was perhaps a Number One Driver status? He was heard to say like a petulant child over the radio ” why dosn’t he let me pass ?” I think Lewis will be thinking long and hard over the break before signing for another term with Merc and just because they have the best car now dosn’t mean that will be for ever. Ask Sebastin. Vettel !!!

16

One week they put him in a car with faulty brakes which nearly kills him, the next week they give him a car which self-immolates and again nearly kills him, then they put him on an inferior race strategy and when his team mate, on the apparently favored race strategy, wants to get by they tell Hamilton to not only move over but to ‘slow down’ and move over. Now Wolfe hopes that Hamilton will realize how he was wrong to not have obeyed team orders and slowed down and let Rosberg pass him. Toto Wolff – Man with odd name living in alternate universe. And incidentally, if new tires for Rosberg was going to give him a chance to win on Sunday why not new tires for Hamilton, the clearly faster of the two?

17

Well said Truth,

Truth said:

[quote]”Maybe the team should have pitted both drivers for fresh soft tyres, the strategy would have worked for Lewis, Mercedes failing to spot the chance cost Lewis the win you could argue as he would have been much faster on fresh soft tyres and closed the gap as quickly as Nico did but would have retained track position over Nico. As someone said, splitting the strategy is in effect putting one driver on the wrong strategy, in this case Lewis. If you think Nico could have won then obviously given fresh rubber then so could Lewis. A missed chance by Mercedes overall.”[/quote]

The reason Mercedes put Lewis on the wrong strategy was because whilst they obsess about fairness between their two drivers they are blinkered to other possibilities. They threw away a pits to flag win for Lewis and the team, it would have been a first and would of made a lot of people happy and only Nico, Fernando and Daniel sad.

18

Nico was never close enough to Lewis, end of story. Rosberg wasn’t even in DRS range when the team wanted Hamilton to move over, he would have had to virtually stop on the main straight in order to let him by! If Nico had got closer and put his car on the inside line into turn 1, then I’m sure Lewis would have let him through, but as Toto and Niki have admitted, it was wrong to ask Hamilton to sacrifice so much time to let Nico by. Rosberg lost the chance of winning the GP by a fundamental lack of pace and an inability to pass Vergne, something Lewis did brilliantly.

19

Who doesn’t know they want the prize money for the team. Merc will surely take the WCC, just a matter of time, 100%. So as a fan if Nico wanted to be in front of Lewis he has to overtake Lewis not given. Now it makes me feel the favouritism leaning towards Rosberg. So where’s the we will let them race as mentioned too many times. Totol BS! We fans want both of them to fight for the WDC and not a hollow champ. I was hoping Rosberg will take the WDC, but now I’d like to see Hamilton win his 2nd championship, he’s been having quite a bit of bad luck and I do feel sorry for him. ALL THE BEST TO YOU LEWIS!

20

Dear James or someone else knowledgeable

Merc is clearly going to win the Constructors Championship. Is the financial reward for teams based on the position they finish on that ladder alone? Or are the total number of points important too?

Cheers

Dr T

21

I remember Nico obeying team orders at the 2013 Malasian Gp and Lewis retaining third place in front of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg on orders from team principal Ross Brawn.

This was only the second race of the season and they could well have been fighting for the title by the end of the year.

I don’t recollect any hoo hah at that time from the British press in Rosbergs favour nor any whining from Rosberg 🙂

22

I remember Nico obeying that order as well, and my god did he whine about it! Different circumstances last year of course, 3rd and 4th was a much needed result for Mercedes then, a bit of a disaster this year!

23

The circumstances were different because last year the points for 3rd and 4th were much needed by Mercedes, whereas this year the constructors championship is in the bag so they can afford to risk losing a few points. As for Lewis living by his own set of rules, the Mercedes management have since admitted that it was wrong to ask him to move over for Rosberg when he was so far back.

24

How were the circumstances different other than the fact that Lewis lives by his own set of rules !

25

Lewis could learn a thing from Rosberg who has been silent and has not played the blame game despite breaking what James Allen calls a well established protocol ie to let a team mate by if you are two stopping and he is three stopping. Also not to forget Lewis pushing Rosberg onto the grass in the last lap.
I wonder what the [mod] British press would have said had the positions been reversed …. Something to think about 🙂

26

Every team in a championship battle naturally seems to pick a driver they want to win:

86-87 Williams favoured Mansell

88-89 Mclaren (and Honda) favoured Senna

90 Ferrrari favoured Prost

07 Mclaren favoured Hamilton

14 Mercedes Rosberg??

Mercedes now have to just simply let them race and battle it out. Equal machinery, no team calls and interventions. It may mean they don’t maximise points at every event, but they’re going to win the Constructors sooner rather than later anyway.

27
Mike from Medellin

Hamilton + Lauda: 1

Wolff + Nico: 0

Ross Brawn must have been on his sofa shaking his head and laughing last Sunday.

Wolff is a disaster and out of his depth.

They got rid of Brawn and replaced him…..with that.

28

They replaced Ross with Batman, Robin and The Joker !

29

Mercedes are totally wrong for even suggesting that Hamilton should let Rosberg past.

I know Mercedes handicap Lewis every weekend so Rosberg has a chance to fight with him. But its obvious there is sabotage at hand here. I have watched F1 for the past 20 somewhat years and I cant think of any period where a driver has ever had this much bad luck, and at the same point of the weekend. “First lap of qualifying, every time?”

I understand that Mercedes want a German driver to win in a German car.

However Mercedes are being very naïve to think that Rosberg is there best marketing tool. While Rosberg would hold national pride in Germany and sales would boost there, don’t underestimate Hamiltons marketing appeal. He is renowned around the world for his ability on track, not to mention his popularity in the North American market and of course Great Britain.

Mercedes are being stupid to see him as a mere puppet to give Rosberg all this help.

P.s. Rosberg when your next having an interview post race and you haven’t won, please show some dignity and stop moaning. Your like a light switch- bright as hell when every things going your way, then moody when you come second. To be a good sportsman first you need to learn to lose.

Vettel has improved massively this year because he is learning to take the sweet with the sour.

I take my hat off to Seb for going from such a high to quite a low and being this ok with it. Many drivers would throw a tantrum.

30

Interesting comments.

For me its a race …. you want to win you have to pass on merit … not by being told to pull over and let another car through … even if its your team mate.

Let them race to win or get whatever position the can.

I think Hamilton as did Vetel ….. made the right decision.

Its a good reason to get rid of the car to pit radios … let the drivers race race and think.

31

mercedes bought up all the ace technical personnell but forgot to employ a strong team leader who has the authority to call the shots.

lauda and wolff consistently contradict themselves on this issue. i’m surprised about lauda who in the past has been pretty forthright.

i could never imagine r dennis or f williams or p head saying ‘I don’t want to play the vicious general’

sometimes i feel like i’m watching kids play in a kindergarten

i’malso really over rosberg asking for constant driver coaching over the team radio.

32

The team comes first. When you sign a contract you join a team. When it’s time to renew a contract all things are considered.

The Mercs are so good now that they would win the WDC and manufacturers title with almost any combination of current drivers.

Next year the title chase may be tighter but I suspect Mercedes could again be the team to beat regardless of the personalities behind the wheels.

If I were hoping for a title or even multiple titles I’d be a little more compliant when I’ve been rewarded with the best tools for my trade.

33

It’s a no-brainer — the team was totally at fault for putting the 2 comperting drivers on strategies which would clash. This team has more management per staff than most international corporations and still screw up on a regular basis!!!!

34

“Niki Lauda said, ” He did the right thing ignoring the order. We will forget this episode in a hurry.”

If by “we” he means Hammy and himself, he might be correct but I’m betting Nico won’t forget it, especially if in the future he hears, “Nico, let Lewis through”…………………. HUH?

35
Drgraham lewis

Actually having just viewed NR,s you tube moan – it would be a crying crying shame if he did win.

Those of you complaining about LH occasional brain fart episodes should take a look…

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