Analysis: Is Lewis Hamilton right to say that Mercedes F1 team “disrespected him”?
Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 Dec 2016   |  3:07 pm GMT  |  937 comments

Lewis Hamilton has put the cat amongst the pigeons as 2016 comes to an end by saying that his Mercedes team management ‘disrespected’ him in comments made after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton went on to say that the dispute has not been resolved with the management over him refusing to accept a team order to speed up, rather than bunch up the pack to encourage Mercedes’ rivals to overtake Nico Rosberg and help Hamilton’s cause.

So is he right to open this up in public, given the situation that he and Mercedes now find themselves in heading into 2017?

Hamilton certainly did Channel 4 a favour, giving them a chance to be the agenda-setters with a quote for the channel’s end of season Review programme. The quotes have been echoing around the internet since the show aired on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton

“That was one of many uncomfortable moments of the year. Ultimately seeing what had been said afterwards, I felt quite disrespected by the individuals who had spoken,” Hamilton said.

“You definitely don’t expect that from those who are in charge of so many people. Has the situation been resolved? ‘No, it hasn’t.”

The last act in Abu Dhabi was indeed a curious episode and one that Mercedes must look back on with regret.

They would have done well to avoid it, especially as circumstances have evolved since with Nico Rosberg’s retirement.

The Constructors’ championship was all wrapped up and there was only the Drivers’ championship to be decided between the two Mercedes drivers. On the face of it, there was no reason for Mercedes management to intervene in the conduct of the race, especially as they have prided themselves on letting the drivers race over the past few years.

Few are privvy to the inside track on precisely what was said in the pre-race Mercedes drivers’ meeting but some ground rules will have been covered and from the way that Paddy Lowe managed the instructions via radio in the closing laps – instructing Hamilton to speed up – it would be logical to assume that this ‘backing up’ scenario had been discussed.

screen-shot-2016-12-18-at-14-52-17

Hamilton would most likely have said that he should be allowed to do whatever is within the rules to give him a chance to win the title, especially after being disadvantaged by the engine failure and the 25 points dropped in Malaysia.

Lowe said at a recent awards dinner that the worst moment of the 2016 season was not the collision between the drivers in Barcelona, but rather the incident at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix, because after Barcelona they had set in place fresh ground rules on how the two drivers should act to avoid contact and those rules were flouted in Austria.

That gives some insight into the mindset of the Mercedes management through this difficult period around the Abu Dhabi race.

But that doesn’t alter the fact that it wasn’t really for Mercedes to intervene in Abu Dhabi for several reasons. Millions of Hamilton fans were already of the view that there was some giant conspiracy for the Mercedes bosses to ensure a German won the championship in its car and trying to stop Hamilton from doing the only thing he could in Abu Dhabi to swing things his way gave succour to such views.

The great irony here is that Rosberg promptly retired after winning the championship. Had Lowe and Toto Wolff anticipated that they might not have been so keen to intervene in Abu Dhabi.

Anyway Rosberg now has his championship and he’s departed.

So now it’s about how Hamilton, Lowe, Wolff and Niki Lauda move on in their relationship; and whether Lowe moves on to Williams. That’s why its interesting that Hamilton has gone on the offensive here.

Lewis Hamilton

The reason why Hamilton will be stronger than ever in 2017

This interview is classic positioning. It indicates Hamilton flexing his muscles, now that he is the undisputed top dog at Mercedes; from now on everything has to be his way.

He is likely to be paired with Valtteri Bottas and the danger there is that if there is any sign of Bottas getting the rub of the green from the management, Hamilton will highlight the fact that Wolff is also Bottas’ ‘manager’, in the sense that he has overseen his career while delegating day to day management to someone else.

It’s all a subtle mind game, sometimes not so subtle.

Hamilton is in a strong position anyway for several reasons going into 2017. First the likely challengers, Red Bull, have two hungry young drivers who will be fighting each other as he did with Rosberg. That relationship could easily turn toxic. In contrast Hamilton aims to have it all his own way at Mercedes in the title fight.

But there is also an indisputable racing reason why it looks good for Hamilton next season and that is the tyres.

One of the main reasons why F1 has regulated for wider tyres in 2017 is not because of ‘looks’, it’s because of physics.

Pirelli struggled to get the science and technology right to produce F1 tyres to the narrow dimensions laid out in the F1 rules as they were. Things improved a bit over the years, but the fact that high tyre pressures had to be mandated in 2016 shows that they were far from operating at the optimum.

The science behind the 2017 tyres is simple; with a wider tyre, you can spread loads more evenly, you can manage temperatures and degradation much more effectively.

XPB.cc Ferrari 2017 Pirelli tyre test

Pirelli has the science for that size and shape of tyre and so the racing will benefit. They won’t need to change much in terms of compounds to achieve this. All the signs from 2017 tyre testing so far are that it all just works much better on a larger format tyre and the drivers will be able to push much harder in races, like in the old days.

So much the better.

And one of the drivers who will benefit most is Lewis Hamilton. One could argue that of all the drivers in F1, he is the one who has been most held back by the limitations of Pirelli using a tyre size that didn’t suit their technology because of the way he drives and what he can do with a car.

Once reunited with tyres that all drivers can push to the limit, he will be at the top table of those who are unleashed to be their at their very best.

Lewis Hamilton

The development of a superstar

Hamilton will be hard to contain in 2017 and he knows it. He needs the team fully behind him to achieve the fourth title and the all time pole record which he is close to achieving and he’s locking antlers now with Wolff to get positioned for 2017.

It’s a strange dynamic; the boss signs off on a $30m + million pay packet and bigs up his superstar driver, but behind the scenes there is a battle. It’s happened in many relationships like Ron Dennis with Senna or Prost, Enzo Ferrari with Niki Lauda and others. Jean Todt and Michael Schumacher were unusual in having a harmonious relationship in public and private.

It’s Phase 3 of the development of Lewis Hamilton the F1 driver. Phase 1 was the hard working lad with a very intense Dad and a God-given talent, racing for McLaren.

Phase 2 was the more mature driver, split from the Dad, with way more going on in his life beyond racing, switching from McLaren to Mercedes piling up the results, the big money and the world titles and becoming a global superstar in the process.

Phase 3 is the world class athlete, fulfilled but still motivated for more, who knows what he is worth and who is going to tell the bosses how it is from now on.

It will be fascinating to see how Wolff manages it and for how much longer Wolff’s own focus remains on the F1 team, or whether it starts to move onto broader ambitions.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below

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1

Mercedes pays the bills, it is no one elses business to tell them how they run a race.

Mercedes has made it quite clear over the years that race wins are their goals, they sell cars and want to look great in each individual country. Hamilton put that policy at risk.

Hamilton gets paid 30 mill, has been taken to WDC, race wins and poles on Mercedes back, they decide, not you.

Hamilton is pretty darn quick, one of the quickest out there, but would be a nobody in a Manor, Torro Rosso etc. and anyone who says that over the last 3 years any one of those drivers couldn’t carry a WDC in the Mercedes is deluded.

2

Hi James, great article, in sport some athletes have the magic mix of achievement, brand and appeal. Athletes like Jordan and yes our own Lewis Hamilton. These athletes are not just employees, but partners to their respective sports franchises. The partnership between Todt and Schumacher is well documented. Todt put his lot with Schumacher and pursued and achieved global domination with Schumacher. Toto will do well to follow the same recipe, to achieve goal congruence and re-write F1 history. Lewis is just that special. If you doubt the brand partnership view, listen to the short video clips by both Lewis and Toto, from earlier this month after the ‘amazing’ meeting in Toto’s kitchen. Both are clear that their association is a partnership. Mercedes made a lot of changes when Hamilton arrived at Brackley. Hamilton brings quality behind the wheel and massive brand appeal, Mercedes bring the tools. One wants to win championships and enhance his appeal and brand further, the other wants to win championships and sell more AMG branded cars all over the world. Championships, branding and sales is the modern marketing and sport performance mix. Both sides need to be committed to the mix. Lewis mentioned that “I am now their only world champion, I hope they appreciate the commitment”. Others win the championships and are committed to other things and not the marketing mix that brings success to both team and driver. Lewis is not at a job, he and Mercedes both have a business agreement to execute on track, for the sponsors, the fans, the Mercedes dealerships all over the world and for their respective bank accounts as a result of the combined effort. Not your average employee but business partner… On the respect issue, as a three time DWC, Lewis has a right to try and win a championship if he has a chance, on track. When the team intervene and try and stop him trying to win in a legal way. Disrespect, that is what it is…

3

i have found a reason to be happy among all these crazy posts of arguments and counter arguments.
merry christmas everyone!
enjoy 🎄🎄

4

Lewis has become the supreme prima dona. Wish he had retired!

5

You do not indicate why Lewis should be “one of the drivers who will benefit most”
and that “He is the driver who has been held back most etc”
Only time will tell who will make the most of the wider tyres

6

bridgestone identified hamilton’s ability to use tyres differently from the rest of the field back in 2007 and 2008. he was given clear instructions on the limitted number of tyres he was allowed to used. they said it was a special case for hamilton only. after that f1 when on the attack to introduce degrading tyres. if it wasn’t for that hamilton would have cleaned up.

7

Mercedes have a history in recent motor racing of writing their own agenda regarding races and the treatment of drivers. To them the driver is very much a commodity that is treated as a mere employee however they wish so that the overall brand will achieve its target. Events from the past show that the driver is expendable if the image does not suit. A little like Red Bull really, but Mercedes try and make it look respectable.

8

Hamilton needs to grow up and get over he was bettern a better man , he has only been with the beat teams and used to getting his own way. He needs to go to a smaller team and show his true pace and experience. Stop winging boy.

9

Agree not been a big fan of Hamilton, he’s a good driver, but as he’s getting old is getting too big for his boots. galloping around a racetrack he’s good at it,flying all around the world just to visit a girl or visit a night club, now he’s interested in being a singer and/or actor, makes tv adverts, hasn’t he got enough money yet. what he has got is too much time on his hands instead of concentrating of F1 which made all that possible for him till he’s on his way out. Can’t wait for that !!!!

10

Can’t support Hamilton’s actions. I thing Mercedes should drop him.

11
søren christensen

In the sense, that MB in Hamilton has a fantastic marketing tool – toward the 16-40 segment of Car buyers and influensters, he is right. To get, a.o., a FrontPage on Life and Esquire, in a year where he lost the F1 championship is no mean feat, and is worth several 100 Millions. Mr. and Ms. Normal must be thinking, Hamilton is the official F1 Word Champ.
Now that Hamilton sees, how difficult MB has to find a replacement for Rosberg, it must be a further driver for him to send out his true and frank opinions about the (honestly strange) radio messages in Abu Dhabi. He must by now feel really invincible in the team.
Hamilton is for sure not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so maybe he should be a bit more careful and not so loud mouthed after all – provided he does plan to be an F1 driver after 2017.
With a bit more preparation, even the biggest asset is replaceable. So maybe this is just what MB is starting to think about doing…
I have my doubts, Lewis will stay in F1 after 2017.

12

why would he all of a sudden start listening to your advice after getting himself onto the top step of f1, on his own advice?
he’s the bows, as the americans say it.

13
søren christensen

Thank you for the great faith on my ability. I have not even the slightest intention of advice to any driver in F1. Like most here, I simply state my personal opinion. LH did by no means make it to the top by his own advice and merit. He has been during all of his F1 career an important part of big organisations and raceteams like McLaren and Mercedes. He was/ is the main media figure, and this is how it should be for the media, fans and spectators. Also the driver is the main hero and motivator for the 900+ employees in the team. But the times, when the driver alone could make the difference has been gone long ago. Marketing wise, and as the person to look up to for the team staff, the pilot is still the most important figure. Which is the main reasons why MB has had difficulties to replace Lewis (fast!).
– But, as I wrote: Even one of the best can be replaced, if he does not live up to the managements opinions about team efforts and attitude.
Merry Christmas

14

Seeing quite a few conspiracy theory comments. Why, when Mercedes have been completely dominant throughout the hybrid era, would they pay huge sums of money to LH if they wanted NR to win? Plenty of solid drivers who could have partnered Rosberg and they still would have comfortably won both championships for a lot less money.

15

the hybrid era is not over.

16

And this is coming from a guy who disrespects everyone each time things don’t go his way.

17

Don’t make me Laugh you would never disrespect the Team would you Lewis

18

Hammy represents the spoiled view of a society, a “primma donna” who can say and do whatever because he is a “product” with millions of supporters, the Justin Bieber of Motorsport. He can avoid the huge pressure of English media (against him of course) because they support him since his entrance in F1, an important matter for such a variable guy, a driver able to blame everyone, able to complaint without be named whiner. Thus he has real advantage in score because politics and influence every year, a plus 10-20 points in controverted Stewarts decisions. A privilege for the “Best F1 sellers” like now Verstappen. No artificial rain but mobile chicanes and festival of continue outbursts deserve some advantege in Ecclestone’s F1.

19

Gimme a break! The English media all love Hamilton?!? Have you read Jon McEvoy at all? You should read some of the transcripts from the early driver’s conferences from 2016 … McEvoy was basically latching onto anything to needle Hamilton with. I remember one was asking him “why he wasn’t using a Blackberry phone”, even though Mercedes’ sponsorship partnership with Blackberry had already ended by that time. There was a palpable sense of the press wanting something different, something other than another Hamilton cakewalk.

The rest of your post is the usual claptrap.

20

Great article as always James.
Would be interesting to see how it all plays out in 2017. After all the battles with Nico in 2016, he might be the best friend Lewis has ever had with his decision to walk away from the sport, giving Lewis the upper hand in Merc. Makes one wonder if that would be mentioned in the book Lewis is writing.

As for all the talk on the lavish life style Lewis has, this is for him to worry about and not for the media. He is doing the best one expects him to do in his sport and has the right to a life style of his choice, since it is not affecting his performance.

Finally, I wonder what the payback would be from Lewis to Vettel would be, for not engaging Nico in Abu Dhabi. Vettel has made IMHO a wrong investment in Nico’s favor bank and must be dreading that since Nico’s announcement to retire.

Food for thought

21

Lewis is quick, fragile and intensely irritating.

He is no Senna.

22

Perhaps if you start from the vantage point that Mr. Hamilton is the center of the universe, there might be something to it.

Otherwise, Mr. Hamilton has been a self centered [Mod] who has repeatedly placed himself before the team, and expected the entire universe to reorient itself around him.

The sooner Mercedes rids itself of Mr. Hamilton, the better.

23

There must be 250 comments on here wittering on about how ‘Lewis is just an employee and…’

I do wish people would research the role of the F1 contracts board and its role in the driver market and understand that Lewis is not an employee in the normal definition. He is a contractor. Like other drivers.

It would be even nicer if they stopped reflecting their own employment issues on anything he does or says as well!

24

Oh yeah @Drg,
We have to feel sorry for Hamilton, as a contractor is not eligible for worker’s compensation benefits? ;o)
To your point, a contractor is hired to do a specific job on specific terms. And can be let go by the employer for any reason, at any time.

25

A contractor can be let go by an employer for any reason at any time?!? I’m not sure which jurisdiction you’re in, but this is not correct. If there are clauses in the contract which allow for that, then sure. But there wouldn’t be in a racing drivers contract, or not ones easily exercisable. That’s why Sauber had to put van der Garde in their car, in place of Ericsson, for FP1 at the first race of 2015 in Australia. He had a valid contract, he was not in breach of it in anyway, so Sauber had to comply.

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/118116

van der Garde was compensated by the team, and afterwards the contract was nullified “by mutual consent”.

26

As I said @KRB, the “contractor is hired to do a specific job on specific terms”. Whatever those terms are, they lay the rules for their shared endeavor and ultimately potentially also for their separation.
Depending on those terms, a driver can potentially (as an engineer) be placed on ‘garden leave’. Paid handsomely yes per their terms, but not driving never the less…

27

That’s if such termination clauses/terms exist. They didn’t for Sauber with van der Garde … that’s why it took factors external to the contract (i.e. money from Sauber, and a relenting from van der Garde) in order to nullify that contract and put the driver on van der Garden leave. If van der Garde wanted to be in that car, no matter how much money was offered to him, he would’ve been in that car. The authorities were going to seize both of Sauber’s cars and prevent them from racing, if the contract wasn’t respected. It could’ve got to the point of the Sauber team folding, if van der Garde was bloody-minded enough, and it would’ve been squarely Kaltenborn’s fault for signing up 4 race drivers for only 2 race seats!! It was a timely reminder that race car drivers are not mere employees, as employees can always be let go without notice or reason, as long as they are paid a proper severance package. They are contractors to the team, and there are responsibilities for both sides to adhere to, in such situations.

28

Contractors still have to do as they’re told.

29

Hmm, only if the request is reasonable in the circumstances. If Nico was told by Mercedes management to take Hamilton out at the first corner at Abu Dhabi, then he would not have to comply … he might even have a duty to report such a request to the governing bodies.

If there is language in Hamilton’s contract that states that he will be allowed by the team to race in a manner beneficial to his interests, and that his teammate won’t be favoured over him, then that instruction from Mercedes for Hamilton to speed up could in theory contravene such a section. In the end it all comes down to how much is one party to a contract willing to push the other on, in any alleged contract breach.

30

good point..and even if it was a “clasic” employment contract, an employee is not a slave…he ahs duties to his employers and the employer has duties toward him too…..If your boss asks you to do something taht was not at all in your job description, you can refuse, maybe even complain to cHaRlie !
the thing is with Lewis and Mercedes, what was/ is the contract, is it ok to ask him to stop slowing down Nico…I still don’t know what was said before the race and if Lewis breached or not what was agrred on

31

So what if “millions of Hamilton fans” (an utterly unsubstantiated claim) thought there was a Merc conspiracy? Millions of people used to think the Earth was flat. They were wrong. That’s what counts.

I think Merc will be happy to see the back of Hamilton. I can see them signing Vettel for 2018 and telling [Mod] to sling his hook.

32

Just saw LH on Time magazine cover. Rosberg wins but it LH who gets the cover! I think people who [Mod] LH should take a step back and realise his star status. You don’t have to like him but his talent and marketability are two big reasons why Mercedes “tolerate” him. Personally I think Merc understand serial winners like LH never like losing and will fight hard to win. Something they want in the uncertain 2017 season.

33

F1 people in the know, know that Rosberg didn’t outperform Lewis in 2016. If Rosberg truly had beaten Hamilton on performance, then Lewis wouldn’t be on the covers, and wouldn’t be the star that he is today.

Like del Potro beating Federer in the 2009 US Open, sometimes the great get beaten to the prize by the less-than-great.

34

Can you please name just one F1 driver who likes loosing??

35

Stirling Moss

36

Given Rosberg’s desire for privacy and staying out of the limelight, I very much doubt he would want to be on the cover of Time magazine. Better leave it to Narcissists like Hamilton.

37

Just shows how detached from reality the leftist media is by having the ungrateful Hamster on the cover. Do they expect he will depart with some of his millions to save their declining former flagship publication that nobody reads anyway in exchange for puttung him on the cover ? Is this how his public relations team work ? Spending millions for shallow glory ? They probable offered the cover to all the usual suspects and Hamiltons management was willing to spend the most ?

38

James

At this rate I think Mercedes may sign up two new drivers next year or have him sit in a bench a few races.

ST

39

James, the timings of what was said is not clear.

Although C4 aired over the weekend. Did Hamilton give the interview prior to his instagram/FB/Twitter (sorry don’t really remember) post where he said he had an “amazing” discussion with Toto and he expects a very strong partnership going forward.

If he gave the interview before then I can understand his comments and it makes sense. If the interview was after his social media post then I’m at a loss why he would say it.

40

James K said the CH4 interview was before the meeting with Toto. Which would make more sense, as you say.

41

“He is likely to be paired with Valtteri Bottas and the danger there is that if there is any sign of Bottas getting the rub of the green from the management, Hamilton will highlight the fact that Wolff is also Bottas’ ‘manager’, in the sense that he has overseen his career while delegating day to day management to someone else.”

Isn’t this kind of what Alonso said about Hamilton in 2007, how did that work out for Alonso’s future at Mclaren in 2008?

42

Hamilton is a very talented driver but he should remember that he is employed by Mercedes and paid huge amounts of money. But he is still an employee. Mercedes can tell him to do whatever they want. Hamilton should keep his disputes with his employers private and present a more mature and professional image in public. That doesn’t mean he can’t fight and scrap like mad behind the scenes for what he wants. By these public comments he is actually disrespecting his employers – and also all the other employees of the racing team. He still has a lot of maturing to do, but I don’t think he will change now. I expect next season to be a difficult one for Hamilton’s relations with Mercedes and I wouldn’t be surprised if he left at the end of it.

43

The choice of pictures used in this article says it all. Pic 1 – a defiant looking lone wolf out there for himself.. Pic 02 – The Merc bosses are seen genuinely warming up to Hamilton – call that respect or thereabouts. Pic 03 – the newly crowned F1 champ is seen congratulating Hamilton – again, a sign of respect. Pic 04 – What was that? A glamor photo shoot on JA on F1?

If pictures are worth thousands of words, they clearly show that there is more than enough respect for Hamilton. The question is, does Toto, Lauda, Rosberg and the entire Mercedes F1 team of 1500 plus deserve any from Hamilton?

It is sad to note that JA is increasingly left to inject some partiality in his articles through pictures, while most of the body text is curried and served to a fanatical fanbase to meet the intrigues of demand, business, while journalistic integrity takes a step back.

44

The price to pay for reading F1 news on a British hosted forum? ;o)

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