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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

In Hungary, it was a noble, sportsmanlike effort from Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for the masterful execution of team orders to allow Lewis to attempt a pass, and upon not succeeding, return the position to Valtteri.

Fans cheered and tweeted in glorious mobocracy cacophony, flowers rained down on the act and tears of joy were only momentarily interrupted by a scornful glance toward Ferrari who didn’t initiate team orders and allow Kimi Raikkonen past Sebastian Vettel. The mob couldn’t believe Ferrari would be so crass as to not allow a faster Kimi by and used the paladin-like example of Mercedes as proof on how Formula 1 should be ran and how teams should operate.

Four weeks later and Mercedes are admitting that team orders and favoring Lewis really might be the only option and the three points he lost by ceding the position back to Valtteri is a bit of an issue—which is exactly what I said in the Hungarian race review and was vilified for daring to swim against the mob and peerless Mercedes. I’ve nothing at all against Mercedes, it’s a great team and fabulous people and I understand why they did what they did and yes, it was a collegial move, but I am more concerned about their title effort with Lewis Hamilton and felt that it could—I reiterate, could—cost him a championship if they continue this theme. I think Mercedes agrees with me even after basking in the praise of their magnanimous move in Hungary.

Just four weeks later, the press are back at it—after fawning over the incredibly sportsmanlike move in Hungary—with a jaundiced eye toward Ferrari with hints and allegations that the team may be favoring Sebastian Vettel in the title chase. You think? He has nearly 100 more points than Kimi and you’re wondering if Ferrari will look to maximize Vettel’s strategy and race performance? It’s the same reason they didn’t order Vettel to let Raikkonen pass him in Hungary.

The entire line of questioning put Vettel slightly on the defensive and towing the party line about no favoritism and in this day and age, I find the dog-eared notion of questioning team leaders and favoring a driver’s chances given their position in the title chase after mid-season simply nonsensical. Sebastian said:

“I am a bit surprised by the way things are put,” said Vettel.

“I can’t speak for other people, but Kimi and myself were racing each other the whole year.

“I read or heard after Hungarian GP that he was protecting me. If you speak to him, he’ll make it pretty clear.

“I don’t think he was leaving anything behind, if he had opportunity properly to pass me he would have tried, and that is fair enough.

“It would have been same the other way around – we’re racing for the team, we’re both trying to do our best.

“I don’t know what other teams are doing, but for us we both go flat out, and then see what happens.”

I’ve nothing at all against the article’s author, Adam Cooper, as I’ve met him and he’s a perfectly delightful guy just reporting what was said about a question in the press conference ahead of this week’s Italian Grand Prix. I don’t question Adam, I question those who still feel team orders are a scourge on the series and feel that Kimi, 100 points down, should be allowed to pass Vettel if he’s quick or that Lewis should give a spot back to Valtteri even though the Fin isn’t his main competitor like the three previous years with only the two Mercedes drivers battling for the title.

Mercedes isn’t battling Mercedes with all other teams in their dust, they are battling Ferrari and have to take each point seriously and right now—even in Hungary—Lewis is your work horse. He’s the guy who can get it done. Nothing untoward about Valtteri but if he were leading the title chase into the second half of the season, I would be saying the same for him…same is true of Kimi.

Mercedes is a top-shelf team and they know this much better than I do. They are proven winners and they will make the right moves but should they do so, I am sure the mobocracy will be there to collectively scratch its head and ignore it…until Ferrari does it and then it’s a blemish on the series and something will have to be done to stop team orders…except for the noble, sportsmanlike versions of it, of course.

Hat Tip: Autosport

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry focusing on technology integration, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Tom Firth

    The mobocratic outrage comes out of Austria 2002, It is the reason team orders remain so controversial but those circumstances were very different to the ones presented here.

    I think the only questions on whether team orders are appropriate are:

    Is the timing correct within the season as a whole and within the context of the specific race to do so?

    What is the potential points and championship position advantage of doing so? Does one exist?

    Right now, both of those are definitely yes for both Ferrari and Mercedes. In Austria 2002, the timing wasn’t right, either at that specific point in the championship hunt, or in the race itself, and the payoff of doing so for Schumacher was basically nil as he had a huge advantage over his championship rival anyway.

  • JackFlash67

    The F1 teams are paid by their ranking in the Constructors Championship, not Drivers C. The result of re-swapping Lewis Hamilton behind Valteri Bottas had zero impact to the Constructors points aggregation by Merc.

    Drivers Championship is not a team sport responsibility or remit. The Teams do however have a certain responsibility to Fans and sporting fairness to employees to uphold Moral obligations of sporting behaviours.

    The WDC should be won on level merit between teammates.. not distorted by team machinations, contractual favouring or plain marque favouritism within a team.

    A WDC won in any other way is a lesser light.
    Two of Schumachers titles fall into that category.

    JackFlash67

  • jakobusvdl

    Like Jack says, all the money goes against the Constructors Championship, so simply drop the Drivers Championship and make it all about the Constructors.
    That would take away any conflict between team and driver priority.
    I guess the podium would be made up of the highest scoring teams on the day, and they’d have to make the podiums bigger so you could get the whole team up there (management, mechanics, engineers and all), but otherwise it all should work out nicely.

    • Tom Firth

      The drivers championship may not be important to the teams, in terms of finance but it is vital to the sport commercially that a drivers championship exists. The drivers are the stars.

      • And in many cases, they are bringing a large percentage of a team’s budget…sadly.

        • jakobusvdl

          Though that is seldom the drivers who are competing for championships (drivers or constructors).

      • jakobusvdl

        My feeling is that the drivers as stars dates back to the era when the drivers were ballsy individuals who risked life and limb driving cars that were dangerous and difficult to control. When their talent was a huge factor in the outcome of races and seasons. I don’t think that is the case any longer, and hasn’t been for quite a while.
        Motorsport involves lots of interesting and innovative technology, but does a very poor job of explaining that to its fans.
        We have high profile engineers and technical directors in F1 (Ross Brawn, Adrian Newey, James Alison, Paddy Lowe, Pat Symonds, Rob Smedley etc etc), if the media paid them as much attention as it currently does to drivers, it’s likey they’d be the stars of the sport