Mercedes defend Hamilton over team orders call

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2014Mercedes say they are satisfied with Lewis Hamilton’s driving in the Hungarian Grand Prix despite him refusing an instruction to let his team mate past.

During the second of of the race Hamilton was told not to hold Nico Rosberg up and then ordered to “let Nico past on the main start/finish straight”.

However Hamilton kept his position, saying “I’m not slowing down for Nico”.

Rosberg asked more than once why Hamilton hadn’t moved aside for him. After the race he said Hamilton’s failure to let him past was “obviously not good”.

But Mercedes now say Hamilton acted correctly because Rosberg did not get close enough to him.

“When the Safety Car came out, we chose to split the strategies, and offset ourselves to the cars ahead, in order to create opportunities to win, or worst case finish on the podium,” Mercedes motorsport director Toto Wolff told the team’s website.

“When we did so, Nico was running two positions in front of Lewis. We put Nico onto an aggressive three-stopper and Lewis onto a two-stop, with a long final stint on the [medium] tyre. That meant they would find each other on track at some point – and we would have a situation to manage.

“Lewis was asked to let Nico pass because we believed they both still had a chance to win the race as the strategies played out. But Nico never got close enough to Lewis to make the move – and we were ultimately comfortable with the decision Lewis made to hold position.”

Wolff said the team believed both drivers were capable of winning the race at the time.

“As a racing team, our mission is to win championships and to win races. We thought both of our drivers had a chance to fight for the race win – not just for a podium finish – so we acted accordingly.

“When it comes to drivers in the same team running alternative strategies, it is usual for them not to make life hard for each other when it comes to overtaking. But we must appreciate that we are not in a usual situation any more.”

The team intend to continue giving equal treatment to both drivers, Wolff added:

“At the start of the season, [executive director for technical] Paddy [Lowe] and I agreed a clear policy with the drivers that they are free to race for the win – as long as they are fighting for it.

“Equally, we have been clear that our priority as a team is always to give ourselves the best chance of winning the race – no matter which driver is fighting for it. The calls Paddy and the team on the pit wall made on Sunday were completely in line with our policy.

“And so, our drivers will continue to be free to race for the remainder of the 2014 championship; and they will be racing to win.”

However Wolff added the team’s biggest problem at the moment was not sorting out the tactics between their drivers.

“We should also be clear-sighted about the situation: this debate about team orders is obscuring our real problem at the moment, which is reliability.

“If we give the drivers the opportunity to use the full potential of the car on every lap, then we have the performance to race at the front of the field – and they will be free to race for the win without external factors playing a role. We haven’t done that recently and that has given us some headaches. But those problems can be avoided if we do a better job.”

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112 comments on Mercedes defend Hamilton over team orders call

  1. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 30th July 2014, 19:23

    Look at any F1 dynasty, season, race or incident. There is no perfect team. Tough decisions are made in a split second, then over analyzed for years. That is the drama of F1. A lot of these decisions made, so many variables, nobody knows the outcome for sure until it happens. Some decisions turn out to be mistakes. Learn or be destined to repeat them.

    Mercedes is about as solid a team right now as could ever be found in F1. Not perfect though. Surely they are trying to put incidents of the last race in the best light possible for all concerned, but especially for themselves going forward as more situations will arise. Would any other team on the grid wish to trade places with them?

    I really don’t believe Mercedes wish to be perceived as favoring either driver. They wish to win max points with both drivers. Those looking for foul play will always find it.

  2. Alex Parker (@ourkid89) said on 30th July 2014, 22:03

    Still banging on about Mercedes…. In other news, big congratulations to Ricciardo for a great race win, and great effort from 2-time champion Fernando Alonso to take second…..
    This team orders talk is so over the top, it wasn’t a big deal. As someone above has said, definitely over analysed.

    • OOliver said on 31st July 2014, 6:20

      This isn’t about team orders it is about Mercedes messing up.
      Ricciardo could win the WDC if they continue to be slow on their feet.

  3. DaveD (@daved) said on 30th July 2014, 22:44

    Has anyone else noticed that F1 discussions would be rather boring right now if we didn’t have Lewis around to argue over, love, hate, whatever. LOL

  4. OOliver said on 31st July 2014, 5:53

    Mercedes’ explanation doesn’t make sense.
    Hamilton by some luck was much closer to victory than Rosberg.
    After Rosberg made his stop to undercut Vergne, Hamilton’s quick overtake of Vergne ensured he had built up a sufficient time advantage over Rosberg that if he had been put on the softs, Rosberg would never have had any hope of catching up.
    Rosberg was using lots of tyre life just to close the gap in the first place.
    I believe Mercedes wanted to compensate Rosberg for the time and position lost behind the first safety car.

  5. OOliver said on 31st July 2014, 6:16

    Mercedes’ explanation doesn’t make sense.
    Hamilton by some luck was much closer to victory than Rosberg.
    After Rosberg made his stop to undercut Vergne, Hamilton’s quick overtake of Vergne ensured he had built up a sufficient time advantage over Rosberg that if he had been put on the softs, Rosberg would never have had any hope of catching up.
    Rosberg was using lots of tyre life just to close the gap in the first place.
    I believe Mercedes wanted to compensate Rosberg for the time and position lost behind the first safety car.

    Their first reaction after the race was that Hamilton cost them a win, but after someone probably pointed out to them that they were focused on the wrong driver, they now come up with this PR stuff.

    They were hardwired to the fact that Hamilton started from the pitlane hence he needed the conservative strategy.
    They simply were not thinking on their feet and I think the dominance of their car is causing a loss of focus.

  6. ShoponF (@shoponf) said on 31st July 2014, 10:53

    “Lewis was asked to let Nico pass because we believed they both still had a chance to win the race as the strategies played out….”

    So, Merc accepted both drivers had a chance to win.

    Equally, we have been clear that our priority as a team is always to give ourselves the best chance of winning the race – no matter which driver is fighting for it.

    Isn’t that a contradiction? The policy says “…no matter which driver is fighting for it.”. So, if both driver’s have a chance to win, then why ask LH to slow down and let NR to overtake i.e team order.

    The calls Paddy and the team on the pit wall made on Sunday were completely in line with our policy.

    So, if both drivers had a chance to win, how come Paddy and the team are correct in asking LH to give up position. To me, it seems a nonsensical conclusion by Toto Wolff.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 31st July 2014, 13:59

      @shoponf You are missing something blatant here, surprisingly, after all that has been said and all the articles have been written. They never asked LH to slow down to let NR go, and he said he would not slow to let NR go, and we have all agreed that was correct on LH’s part. LH was prepared to not make it difficult for NR, as he was on a different strategy, but only if NR passed him on a straight and with enough pace that it would not cost LH any time. The team was not asking LH to give up a position. NR was about to have to pit an extra time which was going to, and did, put NR 22secs behind LH. That is not giving up a position.

      • OOliver said on 31st July 2014, 14:33

        They were even specific in telling Hamilton to let him past at the end of the straight.
        At the end of the race the team said Hamilton cost Rosberg a win meaning they expected Rosberg to go past Hamilton twice, once throught coorperation and the second perhapps due to performance.
        Don’t forget also that the team new they were putting Hamilton on the slower tyre hence they told Rosberg to push hard and catch up.
        I don’t get your point.

      • ShoponF (@shoponf) said on 31st July 2014, 17:19

        @robbie: Just to clarify when I said ‘asked to slow down’ I didn’t mean that he was directly instructed over the radio to slow down. When LH said on the radio I’m not slowing down for Nico. If he can get close and overtake, then he can overtake.” that means he would have had to slow down, since he was asked to allow NR to pass, also “So stay in torque mode zero, Lewis.”

        I believe the reason for asking to stay on torque mode zero is asking him to slow down, unless somebody more knowledgeable in this area corrects me. As I recall, during the live television commentary, both Martin Brundle and David Croft also mentioned Lewis will lose 1-2 secs against Alonso, if Lewis followed what he was instructed to do.

        This article also says If Hamilton had let him past, Lewis would have lost two seconds….

        • Robbie (@robbie) said on 1st August 2014, 2:16

          @shoponf I’m sure we don’t know what torque mode zero is. But in fact, it doesn’t even matter because LH was asked to STAY on that mode, right? It wasn’t CHANGE to that mode, so unless you are suggesting they already had LH in a slowed mode, I don’t buy your argument. I think you might find too that the two seconds it might have cost LH is if he had made it difficult for NR if in fact NR had gotten close enough for them to tussle and LH wanted to try to defend.

          But he never said he would defend, just not help. He had complied to the order, with the proviso that he shouldn’t have to slow to help NR. A faster NR right on LH’s gearbox, on a DRS straight, would not only have not cost LH anything, he might have even gotten a tow off NR and put in a really fast lap and bettered his own position in the end, all the while knowing NR would soon be behind him again.

          • ShoponF (@shoponf) said on 1st August 2014, 10:46

            @robbie Lets read the communications again…

            OK Lewis, if you let Nico past this lap, please. Let Nico past on the main start/finish straight.

            I’m not slowing down for Nico. If he can get close and overtake, then he can overtake.

            So stay in torque mode zero, Lewis. And if you can let Nico past into this braking area.

            My understanding of torque mode setting is that amongst other things lower the torque mode, less throttle is opened when foot is lifted off the pedal i.e less power and grip. So, pitwall asks Lewis to allow NR to pass into the braking area. Now, Lewis will need to get his foot off the pedal at the braking area (I assume at turn 14) and with torque level zero (normally he would have had hire torque level & leave more throttle) he will be forced to slow down.

            As far as DRS start/finish straight is concerned, DRS detection point was just before turn 14, and NR needed to be within 1 sec of LH to be able to use DRS.

            Where I find it difficult to understand is, why NR couldn’t get within 1 sec of LH at the detection point (just before turn 14) and overtake him in DRS start/finish straight?
            In my opinion, it was NR’s failure to get within 1 sec at the detection point forced pitwall to issue such an unjust/unfair instructions to LH.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 1st August 2014, 13:00

            @shoponf You are still assuming you know what torque mode zero is, and for all we know it is code for maximim torque. And you will find, in whatever comm we have been allowed to hear, that at no point are they actually saying Lewis slow down for Nico. LH had complied as was going to let NR by as long as he himself didn’t have to slow. Fair game. The team didn’t ask him to. If they had I would think we would have had several articles on this from LH and he would have been far more forceful with hs commentary.

            Yes, if NR had been on his gearbox, LH would have not made it difficult for NR to get by. I don’t think NR suddenly forgot how to drive, so I’ll assume that was the best he could do on those tires at that particular time, the track with still some damp areas. He was faster than LH, which is why they gave the order, but within a few laps of that they could see that NR wasn’t able to get all over LH, so they just let them be. I disagree with your assessment that because NR was unable to close right in on LH they gave the order. They had already expected that NR would keep closing on LH, and I think you’ll see that in fact NR was within a second of him, but just couldn’t get all over him.

            Ask yourself, if it was so unjust/unfair to LH, how fair would it have been to put NR on a 3-stopper as they did and then instruct/allow LH to defend like crazy and keep NR back? Would that not have been total LH favouritism?

          • ShoponF (@shoponf) said on 1st August 2014, 14:40

            @robbie: You are assuming, I’m assuming, so nothing further to say on that.

            As far as slowing down is concerned Lewis said I’m not slowing down… Why did he say that?

            In your second para, ‘He was faster than LH…’, like I said previously, NR could have just use his DRS and overtake LH without any fuss, if he was faster than LH.

            In my opinion, Merc should have pitted LH for soft tyres when they saw Ricciardo is surging ahead with a new set of softs and would catch LH soon. This is with a view that LH already said in lap 48 “I can’t imagine these tyres lasting another 20 laps.”. There would have been no need for favouritism to anybody.

  7. Hassana said on 31st July 2014, 13:06

    Congratulations Lewis, you was just announced as best 2nd driver on the grid by Mercedes-Benz and what a way to do it just before summer breaks, just think about it, Mclaren in 2007 brought a double world champion alongside their adopted son “rocky” at the time, Lewis Hamilton and was just easy for them to favorite their compatriot and declare war against Alonso considering him as serious obstacle for them and it is funny that after 7 years Lewis let down the team orders standing against a true winning possibility for Nico and his Mercedes, i think it was clear to see that Nico is the favorite driver for Mercedes, i mean he’s a German, he won the German grand prix and he came out into his home grand prix as a leader of the championships even that Mercedes know that Lewis is a fraction quicker than Nico but for them it’s easy to calm Lewis down in a very similar way that used Red Bull Racing to do with Webber’s car, the days are coming and everybody will see that Lewis is a long time ago considered 2nd driver and Mercedes will do anything to make it 100/100 Made in Germany

    PS Life’s fair in a way, considering 2007 and when all started in the very Hunarian Grand Prix, but will Lewis stand against Mercedes as did Alonso on Mclaren? that’s so much the case for me now.

  8. kbdavies (@kbdavies) said on 31st July 2014, 18:05

    both still had a chance to win the race as the strategies played out?

    Merc seems not to know their left hand from the right over this issue! Paddy says no on the drivers could have won. Toto say Rosberg could have won, and Lauda says Lewis could have won. Then Merc PR says BOTH drivers could have won???
    HOW cold Lewis have won if he moved over for Nico??? And regarding “conspiracy” theories, people need to understand that team CAN favour a specific driver. This does NOT have to be a conscious decision, and indeed most of the time it is unconscious. There is no doubt Whitmarsh preferred Jenson as a human being over Lewis; and so did most of the McLaren garage. To now suggest this personal preference would not leak over into the garage and pitwall is ignorant – especially if you have any understanding of human behaviour and psychology.
    I do not know if Merc favour Rosberg winning the title over Lewis, but suggestions of how much they paid Lewis to lure him from McLaren is not an acceptable refutation of the theory.
    Put simply it SHOULD cause some head scratching when a guy who is in a championship fight with his teammate starts from the pitwall, has a real chance of winning the race, and is then asked to move over for his teammate so he could come 4th, and his teammate then win it!

  9. mrvco said on 31st July 2014, 18:24

    I’m officially sick of hearing and talking about the whole NR v. LH thing. The only way this gets interesting again is if DR can somehow close the gap and start putting some pressure on them for the WDC.

  10. racernorriski said on 31st July 2014, 19:00

    The real problem will be next time team Mercedes management/engineers asks/tells a driver to let a team mate past it is obvious that the driver may or may not choose to comply. Mercedes has lost an incredible amount of credibility with their drivers and the team information given to the drivers will always be second guessed by the drivers in the future.

  11. racernorriski said on 31st July 2014, 19:55

    The MERCEDES team just made team orders an option for their drivers.

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