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F1 team orders in Hungary: A question of honour, or a deal not clearly defined?
Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Jul 2017   |  4:02 pm GMT  |  447 comments

“It is tough for the championship but I’m a man of my word,” said Lewis Hamilton after finishing fourth in the Hungarian Grand Prix, giving up three points in the process to his championship rival Sebastian Vettel, who won the race.

I find the contrast between the way Ferrari and Mercedes go racing really fascinating and I wish, for the sake of the F1 ‘story’ that they were more open about it.

Bottas, Hamilton

One for all
Under Toto Wolff, Mercedes goes racing with emotion, but also has a clear “team-first” policy, where they will act in the team’s interests, not the individual driver’s.

They are used to it now after three years of Rosberg and Hamilton and both current Mercedes drivers have a chance still in the championship, so they ensured that a deal proposed to Valtteri Bottas during the race by Hamilton, was honoured.

After being without team radio during a crucial phase of the race, Hamilton asked for the chance to be let through by his team mate to challenge Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. He said he would give the place back if he was unsuccessful.

But after agreeing, Bottas then struggled on the soft tyres and with lapping backmarkers and fell a long way behind when the end of the race came. Worse still Max Verstappen, on much fresher tyres, was closing fast on Bottas, so there was some real risk to trying the switch at the end.

Bottas, Hamilton

The basic deal proposed is something Mercedes has done before and it is the correct way to handle situations like this, it’s how you avoid conflicts like Force India had in Canada, for example.

Toto Wolff accepted after the race that they could look naive at the end of the season if Hamilton loses the title by three points, but his view is that the values behind the decision and the deal, were the same values that has won them the last three world titles, so today was the flipside.

However in this situation, there may have been another way to approach it.

With Bottas clearly struggling for pace, and Hamilton now 14 points behind Vettel, rather than 11, one wonders whether there should have been a condition applied for Bottas that he had to stay within a certain number of seconds of Hamilton to get the place back.

It was in the team’s interests to let their faster driver on the day have a crack at Ferrari. On soft tyres today, that was clearly Hamilton.

Vettel, Raikkonen

All for one

At Ferrari, things are different. They are all about winning the drivers’ championship.

Today, they knew about the Mercedes deal, so that meant that from their point of view they just needed to tough it out with Raikkonen in second place, blocking Hamilton and protecting Vettel, who was nursing a handing problem on the lead car. Hamilton would give Vettel a bonus three points at the end as a bonus. And as the Mercedes long wheel base is likely to be stronger in Spa, as it was at Silverstone, it was important to bag the points.

“We have the best car,” said Vettel after the race. ‘We have done the biggest jump of all the teams and a lot of teams are playing copycat.”

He had the steering pulling down to the left from the start of the race and was told to keep the car off the kerbs, which is not the fastest way at Hungaroring. It was a brilliant drive by Vettel under the circumstances, but without Raikkonen as a tail gunner he would have been stuffed.

As we have seen several times, Ferrari priorises the lead guy and his quest for the drivers’ championship; today was perhaps the most graphic example for some time. But they are less explicit about it than Mercedes are about prioritising the team’s outcome.

In this situation today, they did the right thing. They had made their plan; it was a brave call to hold station as Hamilton closed up. The risk was if Raikkonen made a mistake, then Hamilton would have got past and then attacked Vettel and the win would have been very vulnerable.

It was also noticeable today again that the Ferrari is more easily able to follow the car in front without overheating the tyres and engine, than its rivals. This will be useful for them at other races to come in the second part of the season.

Vettel Hungary 2017

Raikkonen knows the Ferrari way and accepts his role, which is a bit of a shame for a great racing driver and a world champion. But he collects the cheque and gets the company car and knows the rules.

In all likelihood he will sign on for another year of this, while Ferrari prepares Charles Leclerc to replace him.

And if Vettel wins the title this season it will have been worth it. Even though that is still a big “if”.

What did you think of the way both Mercedes and Ferrari went racing today? Leave your comments below

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Quick question for LH fans and whoever defends Merc antics under name team order

If LH was really flying. Faster than Bottas so why he wasn’t able to pass him?

If he couldn’t pass struggling Bottas. Did he think can pass kimi?or Vettle? Or was just to minize points deficit to Vettle??

So its so clear Merc has him #1 whatever Bottas does/try to do. In that case which we never saw in Ferrari. How could anyone says Ferrari does the same? Please stop assuming its a contractual issue as NO ONE. repeat NO ONE knows what in any driver contract

Anyone?? Including whoever think that he/she technical??


I think Ferrari is wrong to let Vettel take advantage of Kimi especially the way he showed no class in the way he handled the incident with Lewis Hamilton. I have lost all respect for him he’s a cry baby and a sore loser . I hope he loses every race in the second half.


If one team does not approach racing ethically, unfortunately all teams in contention have to follow, if they want to win that is. You could see Wolff’s real feelings about what Hamilton did when he banged the table. His whole “ethics attack” afterwards was just what needed to be said under the circumstances.


Can you people not see the future? If later this year Hamilton is in a position to challenge for the World Champs, then he has secured Bottas’s help to do so.

Sure he dropped 3 points, but that may be worth many more later.


I wonder if Vettel would have done what Hamilton did, had their situations been swapped? Hamilton showed great sportsman spirit and mercedes did the right thing. Kimi clearly wanted to be let loose from behind Vettel, but Ferrari wouldnt allow it. Perhaps they were right, strategically, but it doesnt make for good viewing and it must be demoralising for Kimi (unless all he wants is that fat pay cheque).
This is clearly Ferrari vs Hamilton (and not mercedes). Will be very fitting if Hamilton beats vettel for the title, inspite of sharing points with Bottas (as opposed to hogging the big points like vettel)


The missed point is the cars are unable to pass. Unless its inferior car aand that hurts the sport


I think quite simply, Hamilton let Bottas past because he expects there to be a time, later in the year when the stakes are higher, when he’ll want Bottas moved out of the way for him. It was a canny move that I don’t think a younger Lewis Hamilton would’ve entertained.


As far as I’m concerned Hamilton has already won the championship. What he did in letting Bottas re take third shows that he is by far a greater sportsman than Vettel and Ferrari. I take nothing from the tacktics used by Ferrari but it says more about Hamilton’s point of view of winning which will make him probably the greatest ever driver. I still believe he will win overal but this act fo sportsmanshi makes him the official hero of the sport.


What do I think? Well, the obvious, whatever the approach Ferrari takes is said to be something to be ashamed of, of a questionable integrity, doesn’t matter what. On the other hand, Mercedes decisions are aways brilliant ideas, with noble reasons behind. What’s the point? The days of people buying whatever is on offer are long gone, we’ve learned to check, compare, and take our own conclusions, based on facts. Be careful, trying to fool people us the same as calling them stupid, sooner or later we will fed up and find somewhere else to feed from. At that point, it will be too late, I’m afraid.


Hamilton could not have overtaken Bottas on merit, Bottas is only a few points behind Lewis in the title race.
If Lewis did not let Bottas back through it would have been a travesty, he won the qualifying battle, that’s it.


were there any risks involved in giving the position back to bottas?


I think James Allen is very pro Hamilton. From the days when he used to do commentary on TV to now. This pro Hamilton bias is very obvious. Ive never commented before but had to come on to ask James why? One of the obvious questions to ask would be why did Hamilton not give back the place in Bahrain like he promised. Why not mention that James Allen. I welcome your response please. All my comments are made with respect and there is no intent to disrespect anyone. Thank you.


It’s simple, really. Ferrari’s position on team orders has been clear since at least Schumacher’s day and probably before – I just don’t remember. Mercedes’ position has also been clear since the first day with Toto in in there. I do think, however, that with the situation changing as it did (Botttas’s car faded much sooner and worse than Hamilton’s did – he might have recognized that and saved himself the minor embarrassment at the end with a radio call. He didn’t, that’s all, and he did not have to. Hamilton is the one who made the promise – he kept it. Kudos.


At the halfway point of the season, its too early for the Mercs team to decide that Hamilton is their only championship contender. An injury that forces him out of the car, or even sickness like with Massa this weekend, especially if that occured in one of the many back-to-back races, could easily switch the points around. Thus, Mercedes might end up with Bottas being their title contender and Mercedes might look back at this and say “thank god we swapped positions at that stupid Hungaroring … that’s what won us the world driver’s title.”

I’m starting to think I need to learn a different language. The English language F1 coverage is mostly heavily tilted towards the point of view that Hamilton walks on water and that Ferrari is the evil enemy.


James can you please clear up who you think showed more honour?

Bottas for out qualifying Lewis then letting him passed when he clearly wasn’t going to get overtaken?
Or Lewis for getting out qualified then giving a place back he never would have got?

Looking at the rest of the season so far only one of them has shown honour in my opinion. Thoughts? Great article by the way!


Neither, just clear team communications, agreed before the race as a possible route


@ james…exactly so. A simple strategic contract between drivers and the team.


What a non-story this is. Firstly, let’s address the fundamental difference between the situations at Ferrari and Mercedes. Ferrari has one title-contender, Mercedes has two.
Bottas has had a DNF due to mechanical failure, Hamilton has not, the law of averages says that that situation may well balance itself out before the end of the season in which case Hamilton’s 19 point lead could well turn into a 6 point deficit.

Conversely Kimi is nowhere near the front, instead fighting it out with Ricciardo to head the ‘best of the rest’ category, so to compare those situations doesn’t make any sense.

Secondly, there is far too much self-congratulation from Hamilton for handing the position back. The fact of the matter is there is no way Hamilton would have got past Bottas without assistance, so who gave a gift to whom?

Bottas had everything to lose and nothing to gain, Hamilton had everything to gain and nothing to lose.

If anyone should be congratulated quite clearly it’s Bottas.


Well said. But the “honourable ” man is Hamilton we are led to believe. Care to comment james? Baku ” can Valtteri slow down so I can catch everyone up?”


Keep up the good work Ferrari. An excellent execeution of teamwork, and Kimi deservedly won official driver of the day.


A biased race it truly was! Nine to the right, six to the left but the lefts really don’t matter and if that isn’t enough there’s always; two in a row leaves nowhere to go.
Jock Clear, I’ll bet!


i found the radio communication broadcasts boring while hamilton’s radio was out….such a huge difference when it was restored. bennington has such a great rapport with hamilton..he sounds like he’s loving his job, even under pressure..


Hungry is a boring procession almost impossible to overtake apart from the first few corners at the start. The points may as well have been given out after qualifying.


f1 is not all about on track overtaking is it?
we saw so many exciting racing during the schumacher era with hardly any on track passing. most of the passing took place in the pitstops. didn’t hear the word boring from anyone at the time.


i salute hamilton and mercedes for their display of fairness especially at a circuit which was difficult to overtake at. we’ve seen multi21 or whatever it was, schumacher, prost, read about fangio. those stories don’t sit well with me so i back hamilton and mercedes’ decision 100%. initially i thought hamilton should’ve battled bottas for the podium rather than asking to be let through, but now, upon reflection, i think it’s the best thing to do because if he made it past both ferraris, he would’ve won big! so what is three points? he gambled and it didn’t pay off. he could’ve lost even more if raikkonen took him out, stretching their policy…afterall we know that deliberate collisions only earn you a 10s penalty.
good job hamilton, good job mercedes. it shouldn’t matter if hamilton lost the championship by 3 points or less. afterall i value a fair champion up and above a cheating bully..


I agree with you about fairness. If an agreement was made, it should be kept.

When you mentioned Prost, were you referring to the incident with Arnoux in 1982?


Inline with James article, along the lines of all for one and one for all. I think both teams are relatively happy with the outcome. Maybe Ferrari more than Mercedes.

Ferrari : At the half way point of the season, it is very clear what Ferrari wants which is to win both championships. It is made easier for them because Seb is far ahead of Kimi in the drivers championship. (Of course, it’s still mathematically possible for Kimi but it’s a long shot).

Finishing in the order 1-2 (P1 – Seb, P2 – Kimi) is the ideal as it maximizes the drivers championship. In the constructors’ it doesn’t matter as much because finishing 1-2 pockets the same amount of points regardless. We have not heard much of Kimi having to move aside for Seb, is because Seb is usually ahead of Kimi this season. When Seb was behind, he was never directly behind so there has been no opportunity to do a “Fernando is faster than you” trick.

Mercedes : At this point, are in a slightly more complicated situation because Bottas is much closer to Lewis, than Kimi is to Seb. Toto has always stressed that team Mercedes is the main priority and that drivers are free to race as long it doesn’t put Mercedes position as #1 in constructors in jeopardy.

So asking Bottas to give Lewis the chance to attack the Ferraris, is a smart move in my opinion with the condition to give the place back if he was unsuccessful (although one of the comments saying a condition for Bottas, is a very good point). It would also allow Lewis to keep his tyres in better condition without needing to battle through to get into that position to make a challenge.

As for Lewis giving the position back, he deserves credit for this, lots of it. but this was very good sportsmanship of Lewis because if would make him look rather silly if he lost by that same amount of points.
The situation in Hungary also would have made it very convenient for him to ignore it or tell the team it’s not workable (because Mad Max is just behind) and just take the podium. In the long run, that would have messed up the working relationship and mutual respect he has with Bottas (and when Bottas has mathematical chance, he will return the favour). By easily claiming that 3 points and next season Mercedes will have to replace Bottas because Lewis may not want him as a team-mate.
Personally, I can’t see Seb doing what Lewis, and yes I remember “Multi 21” in my country’s home race, Malaysia. That’s why I think he deserves credit and respect for it.

Mercedes takes home the same amount of points as they had already accepted. Bottas and Lewis will get along even better now. Plus, lets not kid ourselves apart from Singapore, there isn’t going to be another race where Ferrari will have it all their way and get a 1-2. That would be naive, that Mercedes is fast and Ferrari will need to squeeze every chance that comes their way to have a shot at both titles.


James, you mention that \Mercedes is likely to be stronger at Spa, could you give a brief rundown of the upcoming races and which cars should be best suited to the tracks. It would be an interesting thought experiment….


Spa, Suzuka also with the long wheelbase, maybe Austin too.

Ferrari will be particularly strong at Singapore, Brazil, Abu Dhabi


@ james…i am surprised by your comments re ‘wheelbase’. I recall Wolff being questioned on this pre race in Hungary and IIRC he said that the differing wheelbases had very little effect between the teams.


How satisfying will it be if Mercedes and Hamilton do win both titles… whatever happens it’s always nice to do the right thing, morally.


Contracts, contracts, contracts. The race and decisions made by the drivers were all about contracts. Kimi wants another one, Bottas wants one, Lewis is heading towards discussions over an extension, Max and Danny Ric are looking for one (elsewhere?) and vying for team leader role to help their case.

What was wrong with PDR car? Seemed like a retirement to free up some changes ahead of Spa.


Don’t you think its time for F1 to sort out the tracks where it is nearly impossible to overtake? The sport is meant to be trying to encourage more fans and keeps going on about changes to the cars but a bigger issue is the tracks where cars just end up following each other round and round. We end up talking about strategies and the undercut rather than wheel to wheel racing and overtaking moves. Come on F1 you have the money and the know how, get a program in place and get it sorted.


No, no no. The most important thing for this sport is to put flip slop straps on the cars. Everything else is secondary


James was there an explicit radio message to Kimi that said he couldn’t attack Vettel? I thought Kimi was trying to attack Vettel but simply couldn’t get close enough to pass because he got into the DRS zone a few times.

Also to pose a hypothetical scenario. What if Ferrari had swapped the cars around but Vettel had managed to hold off Hamilton anyway. Ferrari still would have got the 1-2 but would have been ridiculed for letting the wrong driver win.


No, he said he didn’t want to be in this position and that he could go faster and the engineer said, leave it with us, we are looking into it and that kind of thing


@ james…as we never get to see all the comms, was Raikonnen explicitly told not to try and put a pass on Vettel?


This is what I don’t understand. Everyone is saying the team favoured Vettel. What actually happened is that Raikkonen asked the team to favour him but instead they stayed neutral, and Kimi wasn’t capable of overtaking Vettel himself.

That’s racing. Vettel should be congratulated for holding it together with a car that was suffering and claiming the victory. All this talk of team orders seems like a baseless witchhunt to me.

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