Were Mercedes Right to Impose Team Orders in the Closing Laps?

The reactive hive-mind that is the Formula One collective is a strange one. At times, it has the ability to landscape vast mountain ranges at the expense of making many families of moles homeless. 

There is a belief that Lewis Hamilton’s management of the race at the front, his deliberate backing up of Rosberg into the chasing Vettel, was the British driver employing “dirty tactics” to try and ruffle up Rosberg into an error.

hamilton-sir

Mercedes reacted and gave the order to pick up the pace because their race model was predicting a Vettel victory as the German closed the gap on fresh Supersofts. This order directly opposed Hamilton’s interests, who was doing this in the hope that Rosberg was caught. It’s hard to see it as dirty, because he wasn’t breaching any general rules of the Sport, even if he was defying the rules set by his employers – More defiant than an act of dirt.

In a way, if Mercedes hadn’t imposed the orders, (In hindsight this would have been best given that Hamilton ignored them) the likes of Toto Wolff wouldn’t have to try and explain himself out of a corner.

totofist

Hamilton backing up is thematic of the wider issue of this Mercedes dominant era. Isn’t it laughable that a driver can even afford to spend five-laps coasting at the front and go on to win the race uncontested? Watching this scenario unfold made me hope that there is a tooth and nail fight for the title between different teams next season because if the advantage remains as prominent next season, the essence of real competition will dilute.

The new World Champion Nico Rosberg had his say on the situation and gave a well rounded response with,

“That’s a pretty simple discussion. You can understand the team’s perspective and you can understand Lewis’ perspective. That’s it.”

– Nico Rosberg

The team’s concern this time happened to also be the desired effect from Hamilton’s perspective. It’s a tall order, with the Constructors Championship tied up, to suggest the teams decision was under the commercial umbrella like the incident in Barcelona was. The team felt the 1-2 was under pressure. The problem, one of their driver’s was after a 1-4.

The criticism might have landed on Hamilton, but it’s hard to imagine any other driver doing things differently in the same conditions. If Nico Rosberg can see the bigger picture, then maybe we all should too.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – NOVEMBER 26: Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)