How Mercedes ended up in a team orders crisis

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2014With the drivers’ championship almost certain to be won by Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg, Mercedes’ treatment of its drivers has come under fierce scrutiny for signs of anything that might tilt the playing field in favour of either one of them.

That seemed to happen during Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, when Hamilton was told to let his team mate past – an order he controversially, though perhaps not surprisingly, chose to refuse.

Mercedes have generally avoided putting their drivers on significantly different strategies because that can create exactly this sort of tension. They ended up doing so in Hungary because they hedged their bets on which was the best strategy for their drivers.

The Vergne problem

By lap 31 Rosberg had spent more than half his race stuck behind Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. With the track drying out and opportunities to overtake growing ever scarcer, Mercedes gave up on the possibility of Rosberg making a pass stick on the track. As they approached the pit lane he was told to take the opposite strategy to Vergne:

Lap From To Message
32 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg So box, box, box, but do the opposite to Vergne.

At this point, with 38 laps remaining, Mercedes could have put Rosberg on the medium tyre and run him until the end of the race. Toro Rosso had embarked on that plan with Daniil Kvyat two laps earlier.

But they may have doubted the tyre could last that long. It turned out they would have had good reason to, as Kvyat struggled horribly with his tyres at the end of the race.

It’s easy to look back on race strategies with the benefit of hindsight and say that one route was obviously the better choice. It wasn’t clear to Mercedes at the time, and that’s partly why they ended up putting their drivers on different plans – something they have tended to avoid doing in previous races.

Another reason why that happened was that Hamilton had seized the initiative in the following laps. He was shaping up to pass Sebastian Vettel when the Red Bull driver helpfully spun out of his way. He then attacked Vergne and pulled off the move which had eluded Rosberg – a quite brilliant one on the outside of turn four.

Crucially, that also put him far enough of Rosberg that he would stay in front of him when he made his next pit stop:

Lap From To Message
36 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg Lewis is in front of you if he boxes now. He’s safe to you.
37 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, so we have Nico on our pit window. Zero on our pit window.

Hamilton jumps Rosberg

Hamilton’s tyres still had more to give, so he kept on pushing:

Lap From To Message
38 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, so one more lap. One more lap.
38 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington I could probably eke out another one or two laps at this pace.
38 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK, just go for it, Lewis. Go for it. Do as much as you can.
39 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK, you’re in a good place. So we’re boxing at the end of this lap. Box at the end of this lap.
41 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So we’re going to the end, Lewis. We’ve got 31 laps remaining. All we need to do is keep Alonso within ten seconds. He’s currently at 4.7.

Because Hamilton pitted seven laps later than Rosberg, Mercedes faced a different scenario when deciding what to do with his strategy.

Since Rosberg had come in Vettel and Vergne had also pitted for medium tyres and would clearly be running to the end. Doing the same for Hamilton offered the opportunity to consolidate the places he had gained on them – and Rosberg.

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Mercedes split the strategies

Race strategy at the Hungaroring typically revolves around the sheer difficulty of overtaking. Even with two DRS zones (one of which was shortened slightly this year, reducing its effectiveness) passing remains very difficult. This was easy to forget in the first half of the race when the track was damp, but as it dried in the second half there were far fewer passes throughout the field.

Therefore at the Hungaroring there is greater value in being in front of a rival compared to having newer tyres than they do. Recall how last year a frustrated Vettel was climbing all over Kimi Raikkonen’s tail as the race ended, the Red Bull’s fresher tyres unable to tip the balance in his favour.

This was why Mercedes felt the best option for Hamilton was to make a final pit stop, put on the medium tyres and run to the end – splitting the strategies between their drivers.

“We put Nico on a three-stop strategy and Lewis on a two-stop,” Paddy Lowe explained afterwards. “This caused an interaction which we explained as best we could to each driver.”

This “interaction” was, of course, the controversial moment when Hamilton was told to let his team mate past. Although Hamilton later said he was “very shocked” by the order, he had a clue it was coming soon after his second pit stop when he was alerted to the difference between their strategies:

Lap From To Message
42 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton Nico is the car behind. He is on soft tyres.

“Why is he not letting me through?”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2014Mercedes’ decision to put their drivers on different strategies created a new tension. In order to maximise the potential result for the team, the logical thing to do was have Hamilton let Rosberg pass him at the earliest opportunity. That would put Rosberg in a stronger position at the end of the race.

This is fairly routine when two drivers are on different strategies. At the Nurburgring last year, Rosberg was told to let Hamilton pass for the same reason – and he complied within a couple of laps.

But on Sunday it was clear to Hamilton that letting Rosberg past could undermine his chance to stay ahead at the end of the race. Given the pair are locked in a tooth-and-nail fight for the championship, and that Hamilton was poised to finish ahead of his team mate despite his race being scuppered for the second week in a row by a car failure in qualifying, how many on the Mercedes pit wall seriously expected him to comply with the order?

Tellingly, from the messages that were broadcast it seems Hamilton only received a few requests to move over. And unlike when similar scenarios have unfolded at other teams – such as Red Bull in Malaysia last year – it was never escalated beyond the race engineers to more senior team staff.

After the race Rosberg pointed out he had not asked for Hamilton to pull over, but on the radio he made sure the team knew he thought it was time for his team mate to get out of the way:

Lap From To Message
47 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis. Gap to Nico one second. He’s on the [soft] tyre. He has one more stop, so don’t hold him up.
48 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington I can’t imagine these tyres lasting another 20 laps.
48 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So the softs did an equivalent of 24 laps – albeit from damp conditions – so wear shouldn’t be an issue.
48 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So there’s free track behind Nico. You don’t need to use the tyres up defending against Nico.
51 Nico Rosberg Tony Ross Why is he not letting me through?
51 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton OK Lewis, if you let Nico past this lap, please. Let Nico past on the main start/finish straight.
51 Lewis Hamilton Peter Bonnington I’m not slowing down for Nico. If he can get close and overtake, then he can overtake.
51 Peter Bonnington Lewis Hamilton So stay in torque mode-zero, Lewis. And if you can let Nico past into this braking area.
52 Nico Rosberg Tony Ross Why is he not letting me through?
52 Tony Ross Nico Rosberg He’s had the message, Nico. He’s had the message.

Clashing priorities

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2014When Hamilton and Rosberg thrilled us with their wheel-to-wheel fight for victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year, Mercedes did what they could to make it a fair fight. They put that commitment to fairness in jeopardy in Hungary by deciding to split the strategies between their two drivers.

But despite what the Sunday night strategists say, it was not obvious which was the better option to take. These same people would be fulminating with rage had Mercedes put Hamilton on a three-stop strategy only for him to get stuck behind another car as Vettel did last year.

There are reasons why Mercedes should have considered putting Hamilton on the more aggressive strategy. They could have anticipated Fernando Alonso trying to make it to the end on a set of soft tyres and the difficulty he would cause. And as Hamilton had further sets of unused soft tyres available he was the best-placed of their drivers to make a more aggressive strategy work.

But we only know with hindsight how quickly Rosberg was able to catch the front runners, which is what makes his strategy look better in retrospect. And had both Mercedes drivers been on it, Hamilton would not have been contributing to the slow pace of the leading trio, and they wouldn’t have been caught as quickly.

Nor was the order to Hamilton proof that Rosberg’s interests take priority over his – or, to adopt the tiresome mantra of the conspiracy theorist, that partisan ‘Germans’ at Mercedes are favouring their ‘German’ driver.

Rather, this was an object lesson that it’s not always possible for strategists to simultaneously do what’s best for the team and what’s best for each of their drivers. With Mercedes’ position in the constructors’ championship increasingly secure, now is the time to reaffirm their commitment to ensuring their drivers race on an equal footing.

Radio transcripts by @WillWood. ‘Lap’ refers to the lap on which the message was broadcast.

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

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136 comments on How Mercedes ended up in a team orders crisis

1 2 3
  1. pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 29th July 2014, 12:58

    Outstanding article. Nuff said!

    • greg-c (@greg-c) said on 29th July 2014, 15:19

      I thoroughly enjoyed reading that , well written K ,

      • timi (@timi) said on 29th July 2014, 19:41

        Indeed, a great piece.. Regarding “Rather, this was an object lesson that it’s not always possible for strategists to simultaneously do what’s best for the team and what’s best for each of their drivers.”.. Mercedes would have it a lot easier if each of their drivers had their own strategists. Two great drivers, the fastest car… and they share a strategist, it’s laughable.

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 30th July 2014, 12:59

          After reading this article my understanding of the whole thing has been confirmed…that there is/was no team order crisis. They were simply doing their best with what they knew in varying conditions at the time it was unfolding, to maximize both driver’s chances, as they have been doing all season.

    • The Abbinator (@abbinator) said on 30th July 2014, 16:06

      Lap 48 – 51: If I were Lewis in this position, I would ask, as the lead driver in the team for the 1st pit opportunity and go with options… Nico would have had to pit as well, which would have negated the advantage Lewis eventually had, but at the time I was thinking he should have forced the issue by pitting for options and therefore being in the quickest tyre until the end of the race, ahead of his teammate on the same tyres. Would LH have undercut (from ahead) NR? I think so… Would he have kept ahead of NR? Based on performance on the day, almost surely (but he dud anyway). Would the pair have caught DR or FA? Possibly, I think perhaps as FA had bad tyres at the end, LH should have reacted to DR’s final pitting even though being on the prime he could do one less stop (more about DR than NR).

  2. toiago (@toiago) said on 29th July 2014, 13:00

    Great, comprehensive analysis of the situation which Mercedes faced during the last GP @keithcollantine.

    • It is surprising that the entire Mercedes team while sitting in their garage and pit wall could not figure out that Lewis Hamilton who had driven from the pit lane to get in front of his team mate was in a better position to win the race for Mercedes where as Nico Rosberg’s situation was most likely a gamble considering his difficulty in making Hungaroring race-deciding passes when required RE: Vegne. By focusing more on Nico Rosberg’s race and almost writting off Lewis Hamilton’s chances even while he was in an advantageous position running with the leading pack before his team mate, Mercedes blew a golden opportunity to make history ie having a driver win from the pitlane.
      To counter Keith’s statement in the second paragraph where he wrote that Hamilton ‘controversially chose to refuse’ the team orders from Mercedes, I will point out this gracious statement from Lewis Hamilton in the heat of the moment
      ‘If he (Nico) can get close and overtake, then he can overtake’.
      Even Keith who posted the young man’s very own statement chose to ignore it. When Fernando, Hamilton or any other person is let through in a grandprix by another driver, he or the overtaking driver is always right behind the person who would be overtaken. They intend to and certainly do make overtake attempts on the ‘passee’ so to say. Therefore the call is made so that no time is lost. Nico never showed any of that intention on Sunday against Lewis Hamilton. I have never heard or seen where a driver is told to ‘stay in torque mode zero’ so his championship rival can catch up with him so that he can pass. That is absurd. Yet in all these Lewis has the grace to tell them that he can pass when he gets closer. That is why I believe Lewis Hamilton is one of the most decent, empathic and thoughtful F1 drivers ever.
      Why he gets all the flak he gets is something not to be discussed today.

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 17:00

        @tata I don’t see how by including that quote in the article I have “ignored” it?

        For a driver to publicly disobey his team in this way is controversial, whether or not you think they were correct to do so. And for what it’s worth, I thought Hamilton was right to do so on Sunday just as Vettel was in Malaysia last year and Webber at Silverstone three years ago.

        • Did he really ‘publicly disobey’ his team or was Nico Rosberg not fast enough to get within the space to attempt an overtake manoeuvre?
          It is wrong to say that he ‘disobey’ed his team when he himself, as you quoted, said
          ‘If (Nico) can get close and overtake, then he can overtake’ .

          That sounds like an acceptance of team orders and not what you are insinuating.
          The person who actually let his team down is Nico Rosberg who should have taken advantage of the opprtunity handed to him by getting close enough to overtake.

        • David BR2 said on 29th July 2014, 17:24

          Mercedes messages: don’t hold him up, you don’t need to use the tyres up defending against Nico, let Nico past (three times). Hamilton wasn’t disobeying: he said he wouldn’t defend (i.e. he’d let Rosberg past) if he caught him – i.e. as long as he, Hamilton, didn’t need to slow down. The transcript suggests that Mercedes initially thought Rosberg would catch Hamilton, and wanted the latter simply to yield, but the message became ‘let him past’ ‘let him past in the breaking zone’ when Rosberg failed to get close.

          As for the tyre strategies, I think it’s unfair to label everyone who complained about Mercedes conservatism with Hamilton’s race as ‘Sunday night strategists’ or the like, since many made the points (or thought the strateggy was wrong) during the race. I also think it’s fairly clear Mercedes were focused on Rosberg winning when Hamilton was in the better position to do so: this for me was the worst aspect of the team’s performance. They failed to adjust their mindset – Rosberg win, Hamilton recovery drive to podium if lucky – and realize that their race chances had been reversed by the safety car and by Hamilton’s better performance in overtaking.

      • Alex Frost (@frosty) said on 29th July 2014, 17:52

        Perhaps I read too much into the intonation of Lewis’ supposedly gracious statement “I’m not slowing down for Nico… if he can get close and overtake me, overtake.” When I heard that message, not for one moment did I understand that to be Lewis offering a fair and reasonable compromise for the team. I suspected he may have been sporting an unseen smirk inside that helmet.

        Lewis is no slouch around the Hungaroring. I think he knew full well at the time that Nico would find it nigh-on impossible to pass him, as even with the tyre compound advantage, Lewis had witnessed with his own eyes the earlier difficulties Nico had trying to pass Vergne. No, Lewis at this stage was not suggesting that if Nico were just a little quicker, he would have lifted into a braking zone a la Massa 2010.

        If I should be allowed to potentially overestimate (given his dubious mistake in Q3 at Silverstone) the commitment Lewis has this year to beat Nico for his much longed for second world championship, I would like to take this a step further. On lap 42 Lewis was given the message that Nico was behind and on the softer compound. As Keith alludes to in the article, this gave Lewis two key pieces of information: Nico was on the soft compound and would therefore be quicker, but have to pit again; also, he was within range for what the team believed would be an overtake within the next few laps. On lap 43, Lewis’ laptime dropped by around half a second relative to his previous two laps since pitting. He kept to this pace until the lap after Nico pitted, at which point he found almost a full second – and held that pace until he caught Fernando on lap 63.

        Did Lewis merely crumble under the pressure of just the knowledge that his teammate was behind and on faster tyres, and proceed to consistently make a half second’s worth of mistakes each lap for the following 13 laps? I don’t believe that for a moment. Did Lewis intentionally slow his pace, knowing that he had the skill to keep Nico behind around a notoriously difficult track to overtake on – and one circuit that Lewis feels he probably owns?

        A lot has been said about the relative intelligence in driving between Lewis and, for example, Fernando – or this year, Nico. I’ll be the first to point out that yes, I’ve made a whole host of assumptions here – not least that Lewis cared more at that point about beating Nico than gambling and going for the win.

        Lewis knows as well as any of us that this year’s championship will undoubtedly go to the wire, and the points difference to his teammate is more important than amassing a greater number of points for himself and the team. He has driven on these made-to-degrade tyres for three and a half years, and knows full well the cumulative effects following another car has on tyre wear.

        The question I pose then is this: is there enough spare processing power under the lid of Hamilton that he thought to deliberately slow his pace to exacerbate the tyre wear of his teammate, saving his own tyres in doing so, to give himself the best possible chance of reducing that all important 14 point gap going into the summer break? The data for me suggests that is the case. Discuss, I suppose.

        • Waoh, that’s a whole lot of assumptions. And to be honest, there isn’t much to discuss on all that but if I shld take tour assumption in paragraph 4 about Lewis ”slow’ing his pace’ just so he can keep Nico Rosberg behind in the final laps. ????. That defies logic. No matter how many times a driver may have won at Hungaroring and how much he understands the circuit, the expectation of all race enthusiasts and drivers is to maximise your tyre and time advantage by pushing as much as you can and managing your own race such that you don’t get caught by those behind who are on fresher and faster tyres.
          Most importantly in Hamilton’s situation, he had not given up on catching Alonso. In fact, the three way battle between Alonso, Hamilton and Ricciardo played into Nico’s hands as he was able to catch up with them without which your hamilton assumptions would never have arisen.

          • Alex Frost (@frosty) said on 29th July 2014, 19:20

            Admittedly I got rather carried away writing all that. Regardless, I’m not sure; I think Hamilton was, is, and probably will be for the rest of the year more preoccupied with finishing ahead of Nico than any other driver on the track. If he had driven to the pace the tyres were capable of whilst Nico was behind him, he would have hit the Ferrari-shaped laptime limiter much sooner – and dragged Rosberg along with him. This would have left Rosberg with less work to do in the final stint to catch and pass them both. Hamilton must have known that there would be no easy way past Alonso – he himself had intended to hold Nico back (my opinion of course) and would have at least considered (correctly) that Alonso, a driver he holds much respect for, would likely have been able to defend well enough to prevent an overtake, given the state he thought his own tyres would be in by the end of the race.

            By keeping Nico back, he left a suitable gap between himself and Fernando such that he would be able to close up once his teammate pitted. If he had caught Alonso sooner, Nico would be closer to Alonso when he pitted and find it substantially easier to catch up. As it happened, Hamilton appeared to judge the amount of pace he held back to perfection, if that was the case – he allowed himself a few laps to overtake the Ferrari, if it were possible, but one or two more laps and Nico would surely have found a way past.

            As ever, we will never know what was going through Lewis’ head, and its the sort of thing he is unlikely to admit to. Its the sort of racing I would almost expect to see from a more ‘clever’ such as Alonso, what’s to say Hamilton hasn’t pulled the wool over the eyes of everyone, including his team, and extracted the best he could from his strategy? Nico didn’t appear to be putting him under much pressure, so it is either a co-incidence that Lewis unwittingly slowed his pace by the perfect amount to stay ahead, and then put the hammer down again once Nico pitted (though he probably wouldn’t have expected Nico to catch up again quite as blisteringly quick as he did), or Lewis is making decisions in the cockpit that are far more intelligent than he is given credit for – but for a professional top tier sportsman regarded as one of the best in the world in his prime years, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis is still a better tactician (note: not necessarily a better strategist) than anyone on the sidelines. Apologies for the protracted sentence/commenting.

      • akeem said on 30th July 2014, 11:33

        I totally agree with your comment

    • alanore said on 29th July 2014, 18:00

      Seconded, really great article Keith.

    • lethalnz said on 30th July 2014, 7:42

      you forgot one thing Keith, Alonso was just 4/500th of a second in front of Ham, Rosb was going to go but one space and then be stuck again,
      yes stupid in hindsight for Merc to even interfere with their drivers at this point,
      you’ve got to give it to Ham at 300ks he can still think on his feet about what its worth…

  3. William Stuart (@williamstuart) said on 29th July 2014, 13:03

    From my perspective Rosberg’s race was ruined because he didn’t get past JEV, he lost as much time behind JEV as he did behind Lewis in respect to the leaders of the race. I really can’t understand why Nico didn’t pass him, being stuck in the warm dirty air of that Toro Rosso must have had detrimental effects to his tyre wear, condition of his breaks etc as well. Also, I think Mercedes expected Rosberg to breeze past JEV like Hamilton did, in which case their strategy would have been far more effective.

    • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 29th July 2014, 13:06

      I would say it was primarily because the track was still wet offline at that point of the race. I think he also had an issue with his brakes after the first safety car but it’s not clear how big an issue that was or how long it lasted.

      • DaveW (@dmw) said on 29th July 2014, 16:27

        This is Rosberg’s excuse (supplied for him by others anyway), but note that Hamilton executed the pass by forcing Vergne to defend low, i.e., off line, into a high speed corner. Hamilton was on-line. After he was well along-side, Vergne faced a serious ultimatum and had to give way. Rain or no rain, at a place like this, passing “off-line” is a bear, due to dust, marbles, etc. And it takes some thinking and some guts to pull it off, which Hamilton showed in that instance.

      • sonia luff (@sonia54) said on 29th July 2014, 18:37

        Nico did have problems with his brakes after the first safety car and it can be heard during the race, hence Nico had problems locking up at times. So DavidW it wasn’t Rosbergs’ excuse.

      • f1-neil said on 29th July 2014, 19:31

        It had actually cleared itself on lap 21

        • cpm said on 29th July 2014, 21:34

          and the safety car came out at lap 23 again if i recall. came back in at the end of lap 26. DRS available from lap 29 possibly.

          Hamiltons move began on the main straight with open DRS and no DRS for Vergne – different to Rosbergs attempts before where Vergne had DRS.

          Taking nothing away from Hamilton…

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 29th July 2014, 22:16

        I tend to agree with that @keithedin, the combination of not being sure about his brakes and the track being wet off the racing line would surely have made Rosberg less eager to risk a gutsy move, like the one Hamilton was able to pull off a couple of laps later.

        • lethalnz said on 30th July 2014, 7:55

          Rosb was covering his option, get taken out and loose 25/15point trying pass Verg or stay put and limit the any reduction that was about to happen…
          he made that choose by not pushing, he didnt think Ham was going to gain that many place…
          Rosb lost out, what the hell, its just 3 points what is the big fuss about???

          what you will see from here on in is neither will give way and the likely hood of a crash is 100%…

  4. Sumedh said on 29th July 2014, 13:08

    While Hamilton did the right thing on track, the message all the world is going to get is “Rosberg complied with team orders every time (Malaysia & Nurburgring last year), Lewis didn’t.”

    This will further cement Nico’s place as the driver with the emotional support of the team.

    • Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 13:12

      Nico complied with team orders at the Nurburgring? I think you need to watch that race again mate.

      • Exactly, from what i remember Rosberg did everything he could to stop Hamiltons strategy from working.

      • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 29th July 2014, 14:54

        It says so in Keith’s article as well….. This is fairly routine when two drivers are on different strategies. At the Nurburgring last year, Rosberg was told to let Hamilton pass for the same reason – and he complied within a couple of laps.

        • Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 15:40

          I think you’ll find it took him more than a couple of laps to comply.

          They were also in a completely different race unlike in Hungary where they were racing other.

    • Yes and they were no where near each other in the WDC and both of them nowhere near the top… easier to comply to team orders in such a situation. Hamilton let Rosberg past in the Korean GP 2013 as well, so don’t make it sound like Lewis does not obey team orders…circumstances are different this year.

    • Edvaldo said on 29th July 2014, 18:35

      In Nurburgring, Rosberg didn’t even make it to Q3 and Hamilton started on pole position.
      Lost places to both Red Bulls and was having issues with tyre management.
      Was suffering a strong pressure from Raikkonen and Rosberg was just there, slowing him down and wearing his tyres for nothing.

      It’s the same order, but not the same situation.
      Hamilton shouldn’t even be on that situation if his car hadn’t failed him after half a lap on saturday. He had his reasons to hold position.

  5. Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 13:10

    It was clear to see after practice that the primes weren’t anymore durable than the options and were way slower so I still can’t get my head around why they didn’t put all Hamilton’s brand new option tyres to good use.

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 29th July 2014, 13:18

      That was Ferrari’s reasoning for sure. Mercedes on the other hand thought it was too risky. In the end, Fernando went a lap longer than Lewis and managed to fend off the Brit running the “more durable” tyres…

      • matt said on 29th July 2014, 13:25

        no the medium tyre wasnt more durable.the tyre wear was similiar to the softs,but the softs were quicker.when lewis caught alonso,lewis tyres were also dead.whereas ric on the fresher soft tyres breezed past lewis and alonso with ease.

        • aezy_doc said on 30th July 2014, 10:38

          He didn’t exactly breeze past, but he was able to pass. Lewis on the softs would have had a better chance at second (either doing one stint a la Alonso or splitting and doing two like Rosberg). He would have certainly finished 3rd if he’d copied Rosberg and perhaps been able to more readily push for 2nd or even first depending on how well the big red Ferrari bus was able to hold Ricciardo. (although most people thought Alonso would have to pit again, in which case Hamilton would have finished 2nd by going soft-soft).

    • matt said on 29th July 2014, 13:22

      exactly,keith is clutching at straws abit.if merc believed nico could win the race on the soft tyre strategy,then they were trying to get nico the win and not lewis,eventhough lewis was in a better position to win.when nico was behind lewis,lewis said he cant see the tyres lasting,so why didnt they pit lewis for softs before nico……….

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 13:24

        if merc believed nico could win the race on the soft tyre strategy

        I didn’t say that.

        • matt said on 29th July 2014, 13:28

          no i said it keith,and its a good question.also sky sports pete gill i think has got it spot on,in what he said.i think your explanation is abit far fetched.they could have pitted lewis before nico,that would have freed nico and put lewis on brand new soft tyres,on lower fuel than earlier in the race.lewis then would have had a great chance to win.a better chance than nico infact.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 13:44

            In that case I don’t know what the point of your previous comment was.

            As for pitting Hamilton around the time of Rosberg’s third pit stop, all the points I made in the final few paragraphs apply, with further negatives. For example, it would have given away track position to Ricciardo, when it was not certain Hamilton would finish the race behind him. It would also have raised questions why they bothered to put him on mediums in the first place.

            And this is all assuming there was suitable traffic-free space to drop him into at that point. Had there not been it could have ended up costing him a place to Rosberg.

            Like I said in the article, this is Sunday night strategising – saying what teams should have done in hindsight with the benefit of all the information, without considering the circumstances and options they faced when they made their decision.

          • DaveW (@dmw) said on 29th July 2014, 17:36

            This is a good analysis, and causes me to temper my criticism of the team. Still, I think a reasoned view based on information available at the time would have said that Hamilton would be a sitting duck in the later stages, and with no traction, he could not hold off a competitive car on new soft tires. There was no evidence to the contrary from the race and the driver was saying it wouldn’t work. On the central point here, you say that the issue was trading away track position when it was not certain Hamilton would finish behind. But the track position to be gained here was of the very worst possible sort—a mere few seconds ahead on dead tires with a fast car behind on new soft tires. This is not hindsight. Even I could see that this looked like a classic Interesting Theory, even as the commentators told me Hamilton was going to win and Make History. And I was not assuming that the tires would just go off a cliff in the end. Keep track position at all costs is not a rule of thumb.

            In their favor, I suppose, I think a few very shiny objects caught the team’s attention and caused them to think that this stunt of holding off RIC in the end just might work:

            1. Hamilton was mighty on the last set in terms of pace and life, suggesting that he could do it again.
            2. Rosberg lost out when Hamilton did not let him by and would not recover that time lost.
            3. Ricciardo lost several seconds before his last stop, making it harder for him to run down Hamilton.
            4. The assumption that Alonso would stop

            I think they also waived off a few likely critical points on the other side:
            1. Hamilton’s wing damage would accelerate his tire wear
            2.The SC periods and rain meant the cars were much heavier with fuel than expected for this stage.
            3. The time behind Alonso, whenever he would have stopped, accelerated tire wear.
            4. Hamilton’s softs for the last stint would have been brand new (unlike Rosberg’s which proved quite quick enough).

            I think this information, held at the time, comes out one way. The team was fixated on a gain of track position but lost sight of the other dynamics.

  6. JCost (@jcost) said on 29th July 2014, 13:15

    This is what rains makes to the races. The changing conditions demand quick thinking from drivers and team strategists and it makes the races way more interesting.

    Mercedes did not want to risk, Ferrari had to and they went for the quick softs to secure their podium. I was watching Sky post race program and Marco Matiacci eyes were wet after their amazing result. That man has passion and it’s not a bad thing.

  7. Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 29th July 2014, 13:29

    A year or two ago, Luca said something about not having two roosters in the hen house. I wonder if this is causing any reflections at Mercedes in this situation.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 13:33

      @timothykatz Depends whether you consider Rosberg a ‘rooster’ or just a very good driver who’s had the rub of the green so far this year.

      Besides which, Ferrari have hired two roosters since then, so if anyone done some reflecting I’d say it’s them!

    • antonyob (@antonyob) said on 29th July 2014, 14:22

      Ferrari (Enzo) used to say you don’t put the cart in front of the horse. They were wrong then also.

      Having competing sides of a garage will likely do some good and some damage to results. Ferraris problem isn’t the number of roosters though, its the number of hens.

    • Breno (@austus) said on 29th July 2014, 15:12

      Right now Ferrari only have one rooster.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 30th July 2014, 13:18

        Let’s be fair to Nico here. This is the first year he has had the equipment to prove his ‘rooster-worthiness.’ And I’m quite surprised at the number of people vilifying him not being able to get by Vergne under those conditions and during a time in F1 when tires are such a deciding factor. It’s like it is suddenly not possible that Nico simply wasn’t hooked up at that particular time whereas LH was. I don’t think Nico suddenly forgot how to drive fast, as evidenced by how quickly he reeled the front 3 in near the end. But no…because of one driver he couldn’t get past that LH could, that writes Nico off.

        There’s a chance Nico won’t win the WDC. You know how I know that? Because I’ve seen Lewis not win WDC’s that were his to win too. But at this point LH has had the experience and NR is in new territory. He’s still growing into this role, imho, and will continue to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He is proving that now.

  8. KeithR (@lockup) said on 29th July 2014, 13:30

    Agree with @Damonw – to pick up on Nico last year at Nurb – he did NOT let Hamilton through ‘within a couple of laps’, it was five and a big holdup and cost to Lewis’ tyres. And a very different situation with less justification.

    If anything it was an example of non-cooperation by Nico.

  9. bpacman (@bpacman) said on 29th July 2014, 13:31

    Great article. Lewis’ pass on Vergne wasn’t just spectacular – it was the crucial move that allowed him to finish ahead of Rosberg.

  10. Girts (@girts) said on 29th July 2014, 13:31

    As one of my favourite songs goes:

    My intentions are clear
    That’s the only truth
    My only wish
    Is never to lose

    All that Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff, Dieter Zetsche and all the other key people at Mercedes F1 team want is never to lose and they simply wanted to get as many points as possible at Hungaroring. The same goes for Hamilton, who would obviously want to stay ahead of his only (realistic) championship rival.

    There is nothing bad about using different strategy as a tool to beat your team mate either, as long as one of the team mates is not a Massa and the other one is not an Alonso. So neither Hamilton, nor anyone else at Mercedes should be condemned for what happened on Sunday.

    I honestly believe that Mercedes are doing their very best to give both drivers equal opportunities to fight for the world championship. Nothing that I have seen or read so far suggests anything else. Mistakes, miscalculations and mishaps simply happen.

  11. BillC said on 29th July 2014, 13:35

    Awesome article! What this site is all about. Good job Keith.

    • Martijn schenderling said on 31st July 2014, 23:01

      Impressive article. Well done. Hope Mercedes team has made similar evaluation and have discussed all of the mentioned elements with their drivers

  12. Michael C (@surface) said on 29th July 2014, 13:45

    Good post

  13. kpcart said on 29th July 2014, 13:45

    I would like to see an F1 where the safety car does not give such an unfair advantage to the driver behind. Rosberg went backwards while Hamilton went forwards through no driving effort – that is artificial. Hamilton climbing from last to 3rd might seem grand, but it isn’t in the circumstances of the hungary race. at pivotal points he could not pass Vettel (until vettel made an error), and could not pass Alonso, both drivers in inferior cars, and Alonso on inferior tyres. all the other overtaking by Hamilton was expected, because of car advantage. his one good pass was on Vergne. Hamilton spun (driving error not realising brakes would be cold), any other driver not in the mercedes would not be able to make up the time he did in the next 10 or so laps, it was ludicrous, drivers making no errors and driving as fast as possible, and being passed so easily by someone that made 2 mistakes along the way.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 13:55

      The ‘delta time’ rules which F1 has (which I believe no other series has anything similar to, correct me if I’m wrong) means F1 already does more to preserve the ordinary running order during a Safety Car period than other championships. But during the first Safety Car period on Sunday the rapid deployment of the Medical Car meant the effect of the Safety Car was more severe. This is what Rosberg was talking about yesterday.

      How could this be made fairer? One option would be to go back to red-flagging races and running them in multiple parts using aggregate time, but the all-important television companies wouldn’t like it.

      A more radical solution might be to get rid of the Safety Car altogether and just have each car stick to a speed limit – an extension of the current ‘delta time’ rules, if you like. The drawback there is that using a Safety Car means all the cars are together, creating a large time gap between them passing by which can allow marshals to clear debris in safety. And of course F1 would lose the revenue stream from Safety Car sponsorship!

    • SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 29th July 2014, 14:12

      Clearly not a Hamilton fan :)
      He couldn’t pass Vettel until he made an error.. When Rosberg pitted he could really go for the pass (drs assisted ok) but Vettel made the mistake, not Lewis ;)

      • Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 15:45

        Err maybe because Vettel was also getting DRS by being behind Rosberg?

        The Mercedes was actually slower than the Redbull down the straight.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 29th July 2014, 14:21

      Safety is a priority, right? how it influences the race is secondary.

      I don’t see why this is now a talking point. Safetry car periods shake up the race, I agree, but on certain circumstances it needs to be used. Marshalls needs to jump in the track and recover a broken car, or assist a driver.

      In conditions like those last sunday, with the damp track drying out, what else could’ve been done. Heck, even Groskean spun off during the Safety Car period… at limited speed and all.

    • MilleniumBug (@milleniumbug) said on 29th July 2014, 14:54

      Nothing to negotiate about regarding safety

    • As others have said, safety remains of paramount importance. Driver positions have not always been pivotal.
      If you are bothered about Nico loosing places due to safety car deployment – others were affected including Fernando who drove better than Nico, then I would refresh your memory with an incident just last year at Monaco 2013 where the deployment of safety car caught Lewis Hamilton out and Vettel and Webber used the opportunity to make pit stops with which they were able to jump Lewis Hamilton and they went on to 2nd and 3rd positions.
      Either we have safety car deployed or we don’t. There is no need to choose which driver it should favour or not.

      • The Abbinator (@abbinator) said on 30th July 2014, 16:17

        Why have the SC at all? Just Red Flag the race, or better yet, make all cars go to the pits in race order and restart from the pit lane behind the SC for 1 lap, eliminating the unlapping process and the farce of driving around to a delta and the silly random dice rolling of the current pit process behind the SC.

    • sonia luff (@sonia54) said on 29th July 2014, 18:45

      Well said kpcart,i’ve made the same comment on other F1 sites.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 30th July 2014, 13:26

        I don’t see why they can’t freeze the order of the field as soon as a safety car is decided upon, and before it is even on the track, and if some cars have to pit after others due to the actual physical presence of the SC once it is on the track, they still get to resume the position they were in originally ahead of the race resuming.

        I’ve never been that concerned about this issue, but having drivers’ positions literally affected by the actual pace of the safety and medical cars has been highlighted at this race, and it doesn’t seem right that the actual pace of those cars can affect the outcome of a race.

  14. John H (@john-h) said on 29th July 2014, 13:56

    But despite what the Sunday night strategists say, it was not obvious which was the better option to take. These same people would be fulminating with rage had Mercedes put Hamilton on a three-stop strategy only for him to get stuck behind another car as Vettel did last year.

    It was clear from free practice the pace of the soft tyre and the fact it would last as long as the medium. They wouldn’t have been ‘fulminating’ with range, because Hamilton would have been ahead of Rosberg on the same tyre regardless. This isn’t ‘Sunday night’ analysis but common sense born out from ‘Friday afternoon.’

    • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 29th July 2014, 14:10

      If it was so clear that the soft was superior, why did other teams such as torro Rosso and Williams also use the medium tyre? Tbh, given that track position is generally king in hungary, I had thought hamilton was looking in much better shape than Rosberg, and even ricciardo at that point in the race (admittedly I missed the practice sessions so wasn’t privy to the information on relative tyre performance).

      • Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 16:09

        Williams haven’t exactly been on form this year strategy wise.

        They cost themselves a win in Austria IMO by being way too conservative.

        • Keith Campbell (@keithedin) said on 29th July 2014, 21:17

          Well that’s definitely a fair point damon ;) but still my point is that it clearly wasn’t obvious if other teams made the same strategic ‘error’. Also, track conditions change over a race weekend especially after rain so maybe the teams thought that would help the prime tyre perform better.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 14:18

      @john-h The two compounds were closer on durability than at other tracks, but they weren’t identical. Furthermore the race was run in considerably cooler conditions than Friday practice and on a track which had been doused at least twice in the intervening period, altering how the tyres performed.

      Bearing that out, Mercedes were not the only team to choose the harder tyre for the longest stint at the end of the race when the track was at its driest and therefore hardest on the tyres. Here’s what tyres were used by the drivers who pitted immediately before Hamilton and ran to the end of the race:

      39 laps – Kvyat, medium
      37 laps – Vettel, medium
      36 laps – Bottas, medium
      36 laps – Vergne, medium
      33 laps – Button, medium
      32 laps – Alonso, soft

      And there are further reasons why putting Hamilton on the same strategy as Rosberg would not necessarily have put him in a stronger position, as described in the article.

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 29th July 2014, 14:42

        @keithcollantine I really don’t understand why so many people went with the medium. If they had looked at Massa’s first stint on that tyre when everyone else was on softs they would have noticed that his tyres didn’t last very long, especially when compared to Gamiltons softs put on at the same time (who was also running in traffic).

        They would also have noticed that Massa’s pace was poor, being caught quite substantially by Alonso on the softs, when it’s pretty clear the Williams is the quicker car. Bottas, whilst in traffic, was also putting in a similarly poor stint on the medium tyre.

        To me, watching the live timing, and looking at the previous stints, it was clear that the medium was a useless tyre. Hence why on Sunday afternoon, the second Mercedes put them on i questioned the decision heavily.

        Also, it reiterates a point Lewis made in Monaco about Mercedes only having a team strategist, as apposed to each driver having their own strategist. The only logical decision, looking at it solely from Hamilton’s point of view was to put the soft tyres on, covering off Rosberg. Rosberg is his only title rival, and to take a risk that could possibly throw away an absolute certain position of out-scoring that rival after starting from the pit lane, should have been the only reasonable choice, even if they believed it was a strategy which couldn’t win, which, judging by the comments after the race, they didn’t.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 29th July 2014, 14:52

          @jleigh

          I really don’t understand why so many people went with the medium. If they had looked at Massa’s first stint on that tyre when everyone else was on softs they would have noticed that his tyres didn’t last very long

          When Hamilton made his final pit stop on lap 39 Massa hadn’t finished his first stint on medium tyres yet and his lap times were fine.

          • Jake (@jleigh) said on 29th July 2014, 15:01

            @keithcollantine, ah yes, right you are, my mistake. I somehow got it in my head that Massa was on the Mediums on his first dry tyre stint. I would still argue though that it was clear the tyre was vet slow, as his fastest lap in the stint was just 0.5 seconds quicker than his previous stint, on newer tyres, on an ever drying track, in an ever lightening car.

      • John H (@john-h) said on 29th July 2014, 15:48

        @keithcollantine thanks for the detailed analysis as always, I just felt obliged to comment because it is clear the same people would not have been fuming as you suggested. I’m 100% sure of it.

        Why?

        Although looking at other teams is fair enough, Hamilton would have had track position over his title rival and the same (younger) tyre. Plus his softs were completely unused and they could have switched to a 3 stop if necessary and still been ahead of Nico.

        The strategy they chose was the only one that put Nico within reach of Hamilton at that stage of the race, that’s probably one way to think about it.

      • Pat said on 29th July 2014, 18:55

        Surely being on the same strategy but ahead on the road and on fresher tyres is the very definition of being in a `stronger position`.

    • AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 29th July 2014, 14:42

      @john-h, @keithcollantine, with regard to ‘Sunday night strategising’, I agree that at mid race on Sunday afternoon, the medium-tyre strategy must have looked reasonable. Also, Hamilton had shown great pace on the harder compound in Silverstone, so I suppose it was not a given that it was a mistake, especially as they expected Alonso to pit again.

      Nevertheless, I find it a pity that teams do not more often take the aggressive route of running a short stint at the end of the race on new tyres. Especially on the Hungaroring with all its corners, new tyres can make an incredible difference in lap time. Of course, there is the risk of getting stuck behind someone, but in Hamilton’s case, had he pitted around lap 55, he would have an enormous tyre advantage to anyone in front of him (except Ricciardo), and he had been passing very well all afternoon.

      Finally, if Hamilton had had his own strategist, the preferred option would have been to copy Nico’s strategy. That way, he would have come out in front with much fresher tyres, and with the right to pit first for the final stint. This would have guaranteed a finish in front of Rosberg, and still leave chances of a win. As it was, finishing the race with a long medium stint might leave him vulnerable to Rosberg in the closing laps (especially in case of another safety car).

      Of course, this is not even Sunday-night strategising anymore, but Tuesday-afternoon strategising! :-)

      • Jake (@jleigh) said on 29th July 2014, 15:04

        I think if Mercedes take anything from this, it should be that they need to provide both drivers with separate strategy teams, focused solely on getting the best strategy for their driver. Especially now it’s clear the title is between them.

  15. OOliver said on 29th July 2014, 14:05

    I recall Rosberg holding up Hamilton for an extended period one race last year until he had to pit, which is very different from complying. Lauda even said Rosberg was right to not obey, yet that scenario was very different from this, as Rosberg was set to finish much lower in the points,Hamilton had a possibility to fight for the win.
    In Hungary, both drivers could have stopped for soft tyres one after the other as they were effectively on the same strategy.
    I think Rosberg’s problem at the Hungarian GP was that he was using up his tyres faster.

    But I very much agree that the team failed to realise that the race had been reset after both drivers had stopped asecond time for tyres and every pre race strategy was essentially useless.

    • Michael (@freelittlebirds) said on 29th July 2014, 14:42

      +1

      I’ve been saying the same thing about last year. Exactly! Once Nico and Lewis were together they could have put both of them on the softs and in fact Lewis was the better choice since he had newer tyres and a race setup.

      • Damonw said on 29th July 2014, 15:47

        I’m thinking the opposite actually.

        Lewis was very slow down the straight so I believe they went for a wet setup, either that or the Renault engine as leapfrogged the Mercedes.

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