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Photo by: www.kymillman.com/f1

As I wrote the Race Report, I couldn’t help but consider the interesting change of heart from some F1 fans on social media and the broadcast teams when they, in effect, were upset that Ferrari didn’t issue team orders and yet very happy that Mercedes did and nearly injured themselves is praising Lewis Hamilton for his honorable move of giving third place back to teammate Valtteri Bottas on the last lap, last corner—which reminded me of the Austrian Grand Prix of 2002 in which Ferrari were fined $1M and team orders were banned.

It’s an interesting reversal is some ways as Mercedes are normally a team that has castigated Ferrari in the past for team orders and crowed about their penchant for letting their drivers race unlike the manipulative Italian team. To be fair to Mercedes, they have let their drivers race in the past so while they may come across as sounding smug or overly virtuous, they do come by it naturally given their history.

It’s that very position that was challenged on Sunday when the team made the decision to orchestrate the possible result of the race and issue team orders allowing Lewis Hamilton past Bottas who had out-qualified Hamilton and clearly earned his current third-place position during the race.

It’s not unprecedented at Mercedes, however, if you recall Monaco last year when Nico Rosberg was slower than Lewis Hamilton and the teamed ordered him to let Lewis past which he did. The team also asked Bottas to move over for Lewis in Bahrain this year even though the Finn out-qualified the British champion and was running ahead of him. The reason was clear that Lewis was faster than Bottas and locked in a battle with Sebastian Vettel. Bottas said the team were right in making the team order back then.

“As a racing driver it’s the worst thing you want to hear, but that’s life,” Bottas said. “I understand the team completely on that. They had the opportunity at the end of the day to get some extra points for the team and fight for the victory.

“So yes I see the point, but still it’s tough when you’re on pole and trying to win a race. But I’m definitely a team player so I wouldn’t say no to that [team order].”

Lewis didn’t give the position back in Bahrain like he did in Hungary and that’s the issue I find most interesting as the three points Lewis ceded could cost a title…could. Lewis wasn’t asked to give the position back in Moncao in 2016 either so what makes Hungary different? Lewis was clearly the faster driver in all three races I’ve cited and only one of the three races was Lewis told to give the place back.

Perhaps it’s because I am a Ferrari fan so this kind of team order doesn’t bother me as the team are in the series for one thing…the team. I appreciate Mercedes in their efforts to let their drivers race and fairness amongst their drivers but Lewis was quicker and once he got around Bottas, he put a 7s gap between them.

The Track

As I watched the race, it was clear that the track is not easy to pass on, it never has been, and from lap one, the teams were engaged in tire preservation mode trundling around trying not to chew their tires up while avoiding the disrupted air of the cars ahead of them. It’s a unique feature of this circuit combined with the frustrating nature of HD tires.

It also occurred to me that Vettel’s steering issue had effectively backed the field up as he set the pace of the race and this allowed the top runners to remain close to each other but with little hope of passing one another as was evidenced in the case of Kimi Raikkonen who was losing his tire grip and aero whenever he got close to his teammate making passing very difficult and most likely a dive-bombing event that could end both drivers’ race. This is why you would issue a team order to let the faster driver through due to the nature of the track…just like Monaco.

What I found very interesting was the immediate calls from broadcast teams and fans for Ferrari to issue team orders and let Kimi Raikkonen past Vettel. This is the same group of folks who normally berate Ferrari for team orders. There’s little doubt in my mind that if Kimi were leading the race, Ferrari would have made the call to get Vettel ahead as he leads the championship but as it was, the cars were aligned exactly the way Ferrari wanted them and they held to their strategy instead of letting a quicker Raikkonen through for the win because they knew the nature of the track wouldn’t make it easy to pass. 

Equally interesting was the same broadcast crews and fans praising Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton as gentlemanly, honorable, sportsmanlike for issuing team orders and then reversing the running order through further team orders. Unlike Bahrain earlier this season, Mercedes reversed the order to let the faster driver through. Unlike Bahrain, I found that quite interesting and if I were on the board of Mercedes, I would be concerned about the three points that were given to Vettel in exchange for an opportunity to look virtuous and bruise each other’s back in a self-praising back-slapping session.

In a complete reversal, the very same folks who would normally eviscerate Ferrari for team orders were now eviscerating them for not calling team orders while cheering and praising Mercedes for team orders and hailing them as a shining example of sportsmanship. Strange that. Last I checked, Lewis went in to this weekend with only one point between he and Vettel and one would have thought that the team would want to minimize that by letting their faster driver through to chase down Vettel given the nature of the track. Because they chose not to do that with any lasting result doesn’t make them champions of virtue in my mind, it makes them risky and should the title be lost by three points, possibly silly.

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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.
  • Peter Riva

    The other GREAT news?
    Alonso was not lapped!

  • Daniel Johnson

    I think one of the things overlooked is how the fanbase has evolved. The manufacturers championship and how important that is, is something that wasn’t really driven home to me personally until a few years ago. Team orders are accepted now because of that.

    Also at play is how generationally we’ve evolved from individualistic to more collectivistic. (I lecture about these cultural dimensions all the time, so it’s interesting to see how they are relevant to F1).

    • Perhaps you are right, what I will offer is that history is replete with the collective vs the individual. Men go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one. Three thousand years tends to support that. ;) Although I’m parsing your words here as there is a line between the two words individualistic and individual. ;)

      • Daniel Johnson

        Oh I agree but also know we come from one of the more individualistic, and low context backgrounds. A good example of that is Haas and their radio communications. The Euro press seem to want to pick apart the relationship between Roman and Haas but it seems like he’s adapted to the more expressive low context way of talking over the radio, and less of the high context subtly of traditional F1 teams. My reading of his body language in interviews at least supports that.

        I mean I could do a write up on all 7 cultural dimensions and where you can see them in F1, but really that might only be my two nerd worlds colliding. lol

      • Profpalm

        That’s a ‘Sting[ing]” point NC. :)

  • Bruno Tattaglia

    Lewis is intelligent. He has just bought insurance. 3 points was the price of the policy. BOT is focused in retaining the drive at Mercedes, not in the championship. What will happen when they swap 1-2 in Brazil? 7 points. Mercedes is the new Ferrari.

    • jcn115

      I don’t think Valtteri is not thinking about the championship, he is only 33 points from Vettel and 19 from Lewis at the halfway point. If in one race both Vettel and Lewis take each other out and Bottas wins, he is right thre in the mix.

    • It’s a good point and I have no way of knowing what intra-team culture is like so he may have been appeasing a host is things.

      • Profpalm

        I would LOVE to know the difference, wouldn’t you!? The intra-team culture seems night and day from Nico days. What the he** was going on that made it so toxic or what changed to make 2017 so amenable? Fascinating.

        • No doubt, certainly a real change here.

        • Michael

          Here is what I think. While Hamilton had the British media (and even F1 steward Derek Warwick on the pre-race paddock stroll with Brundle in Malaysia insinuating that both of them would like Hamilton to win) standing strong against Nico, it gave him a certain amount of power to do and say what he wanted. Right now, he doesn’t have that backup. Bottas seems to be completely inoffensive and doing what he needs to do to stay on a winning team. Being mean to Bottas at this point, Hamilton kicking a little girl’s dog. Behind closed doors, I wouldn’t doubt that Toto promised Hamilton that he would do everything in his power to get Hamilton the championship this year. Unfortunately, Bottas has made that fairy tale a bit….trickier to achieve.

    • Profpalm

      I think this is a tremendous point. 3 point insurance that VB will now go out of his way to help Lewis cut through dicey situations. Many of tracks that best suit the Merc are ahead, Spa, Monza, Suzuka, etc. Very interesting. I have this feeling that for Lewis to do what he did, there is a calculated reason. He seemed more ‘up’ after the race results than after qualy, and clearly he had massive tire drop-off and if there were not Com issues, the VB pass would have happened earlier and tires would be able to attack last 10 laps probably.

  • jcn115

    In Bahrain, Lewis did say that he would give the position back if he could not take the fight to Ferrari, but he never did, so I was amazed the he complied with the team order.

    I’m sick and tired hearing about how gentelman Lewis was giving the position and that he is hte perfect teammate, now this is the same guy that in Abu Dhabi disobey orders from the pitwall and told them to go pound sand when the pitwall asked him to stop backing Nico to the rest if the field

    • Salvu Borg

      “gentleman, perfect team mate?” my leg, and any of my two can be chosen, we are here talking about a born liar, a Declared dick-head, and a first class jerk being pumped-up by those from the bottom of the gutter of the F1 media at SKY who are doing more harm to the sports then good being in a position to influence their followers.
      I am surprised that CHATTY KATHY/THE CHATTER BOX EX AND FORMLY KNOWN AS NEDYER haven’t yet Descended with all his mighty and wisdom upon NC yet for his write-up about the ridicules sports reporting by those at SKY has reached.

      • jcn115

        You know what’s funny, if you read some of the comments in the Sky website, some of the brits say that Sky is against Lewis, which is total bull, especially if you listen to Crofty which is always apologizing for Lewis or finding any reasons to justify his actions.

      • Formerly Known As

        Another useless post from Sunny Stivala aka totalsportek.

        Haha, I live in your head now too. Who the heck is nedyer? Another crash dot net troll tactic when one has no facts or substance to back up their argument, the crash trolls start accusing posters of being someone else.

        You are the only chatty kathy obsessed with the media, Hamilton and now, moi.

        You keep harping about the media but are a slave to them. You read all of them, JA, JoSaward, GP247, F1i, Sky, motorsport, autosport, and the rest that clog the interwebs, including all the Maltese media and you rant about what they write so you can make yourself feel important.

        Has it borne fruit? No.

        What a sad life you have! Even sadder now that the media, even in Malta, have published this excerpt with regards to the Hungarian GP,

        “Earlier, Bottas had let Hamilton past in order to attack the Ferraris. Hamilton then sportingly gave him third place back right at the end.

        “Thanks to Lewis for keeping his promise,” Bottas said, underlining the feeling of mutual respect between the teammates.”

        Haha. That’s from a Maltese rag. Get a life, Sunny.

        jekk ma joghbokx itlaq!

        Please stop dragging other people’s name in your posts. Have some self respect and stop making a fool of yourself.

        NC, do you really want the type of media hysteria that Salvu Borg promotes? I do apologize for my reply but this poster dragged my name in it and I had to stoop to his level and reply accordingly. I’m happy to delete this post if you delete his, as well. I think it doesn’t do justice to your informative website. I sincerely apologize.

    • Salvu Borg

      But this time he did, so he is now said to be a GENTELMAN AND A PERFECT TEAMMATE, it is the last act that counts, the BRAIN FARTS of yesterdays doesn’t count.

  • I’m certainly not suggesting they’ve done their brand any harm here. That’s my point, Merc issues team orders and by the nature of those orders, people are calling them noble and sportsmanlike. What I am suggesting is that they were wrong. Lewis was quicker and needs the points against Vettel.

    hopefully it won’t come to this but should Lewis lose by three points or less, all of the Lewis fans heaping praise on the nobility and virtuousness of team orders done correctly and fairly will learn a harsh lesson as to why Merc was right in Bahrain this year and Monaco in 2016 and should have let the driver who put a 7s gap between himself and his teammate, once passed, should have been held at station and not forced to cede back the position.

    Toto said this is the spirit of the team and I applaud that and maybe there were circumstances in Bahrain that made this a more cut and dry case that I am not aware of so I’ll go with his call but it could be costly.

    • F1Gold

      LH was too generous in returning the position. After being 1 second behind to 8 seconds ahead after the overtake stretched any agreement beyond its use or relevance.

      NC, it would be good if a number of your contributors acted with decorum and civility when they post some their offensive remarks.

      • I agree. If I were on the wall and saw Lewis much quicker and pulling out an 7-8s gap, I think I would leave the running order as is. Given Lewis was 1-point behind, I think it would make sense lest I threaten the title by losing three points. Now, it may not come to that in the end but as we have seen, every single point counts.

        Also, I agree with the Decorum and civility, that’s out one rule, If you see it broken, we police ourselves here so let them know this isn’t how we work here. If they don’t stop, I’ll ban them. Also, keep in mind that it is personal attacks on commenters. they may say something harsh about a driver or team and while there are limits there as well, it’s not a personal attack on a person here sharing their opinion. We do need to make that distinction.

        • F1Gold

          Given Ferrari mindset favours SV, Merc need to favour LH particularly at Spa, Monza and Suzuka. There is no way VB is going to make up 33 points on SV but could take points from LH. Result Mercedes lose WDC outright. What are your thoughts on this?

        • Formerly Known As

          NC, please read my reply to Salvu Borg. I apologized to you and your site at the end of my post with an explanation. He is always negative about the media but this time attacked me personally, out of the blue. It was not a reply to my comment but dragged my name here just to smear it.

          • subcritical71

            Just use the block function (drop down arrow on same line as posters name), but I do agree that some posters should be shown the door as their post does not contribute to the civil discussion.

  • Zachary Noepe

    To me it’s interesting to think about Valterri’s job – he has the best and worst gig in the world.

    Anyway, I think you’re getting lost in the details and focusing on the wrong thing. The only reason any of this is going on is because the racing is not only terrible it’s non-existent. 80,000 Hungarians just paid to watch two Spaniards race for 7th place over three laps. A car that was broken held the lead of the race for 32 laps over three cars which were a second quicker. Cars which were faster openly chose to back up away from the slower cars in front of them and give up, on team radio in front of God and everyone.

    While the engines form the main obsession of this website, and there’s some good reason for that, the truth is three engine manufacturers were mixing it up in the front, middle and back. But the terrible Bernie design of this year’s cars, the horrible tire formula, and this lousy track have created the real ‘virtual safety car’, and it’s always engaged. Until that changes there will be obsessions over who steps aside and then re-steps aside aside, but those are all symptoms not problems. Meanwhile we’re considering what, trading in Silverstone to putt around the tardis’s in Picadilly circus and call it a great race because Banksy rattle-cans the Red Bull.

    A car which was broken held the lead for 32 laps over three cars which were a second quicker. What the hell were they waving a checkered flag at, did they mistake that for a race?

  • Paul KieferJr

    Well, if nothing else, Hamilton did score brownie points with the fans.

  • Profpalm

    Okay folks, we are on summer break, and its going to be a long, dry, 4 miserable weeks. Maybe the F1B community can invest its collective brain power and come up with solutions to the most vexing F1 mysteries known to man & woman since we have the time and brain cells in parc ferme.

    These unanswered plot-holes in F1 that keep us awake at night.
    Like…

    What the hell were the facts around the France-Jensen-mansion-sleeping gas-oceans 13-robbery incident!!??? Did anyone ever hear ANYTHING even remotely plausible? Last i read was Jenson said his house was robbed, his guest all slept where they passed out, Jenson reported many things stolen, Jessica reported her ring stolen OFF her finger while she was unconsciousness, police were checking leads.
    That’s just more than bizarre. So what was the conclusion? Someone plant corrupted info in a Mclaren tech file that resulted in the current car configuration? Did Audi attempt to locate Mark Webbers personal phone number before Porsche signed him? Did Jenson overhear Jessica’s thoughts and hire a team to get his ring back before it was too late? Some of us need to know.

  • Junipero Mariano

    All in all, the situation with Mercedes and Ferrari were surprising. I think people had Lewis pegged as a cutthroat racer. And then they applauded him for doing the unexpected. I certainly did.

    I certainly thought Kimi should’ve been let by, but Vettel never made a big enough mistake for Kimi to pass him, even with the trouble he was having. So I felt good on Ferrari for sticking to its guns.

    Everyone outside of Ferrari and Mercedes thought they knew how those two teams were going to act. I just ended up pleasantly surprised. No big deal, on to Spa!

  • Scoot Just Scoot

    First time commenter here… after listening to the podcast and reading this article, I just wanted to try and tease out why this move has been liked by some. I think there has always been a split between formula 1 fans who see the sport as an individual competition between drivers (with the added “colour” of different machinery) and those who see it as a team sport (with all the strategic dimensions that that brings). Whenever team orders seem to highlight the tension between these two approaches to the sport is when you will see the controversy played out.

    So, in this example, the initial team order to let Lewis through can feel acceptable because a.). Lewis appeared to be faster and b.) we generally accept that there is a restriction on team mates to not be overly aggressive and potentially take people out. So it seems fair that the potential tangle is taken out of the equation. The moving back then also seems fair (albeit generous) given Lewis never had to do the tussle on track. To the guys who think racing is about the individual battle, this feels in keeping with the unwritten spirit of the sport, and a sense of fairness.

    In contrast, Kimi’s constant complaining could be construed as hinting at an implicit order that he is not to overtake Seb during the race (that’s another question as to why the behind the scenes orders and contracts say at Ferrari), and so Kimi’s lack of aggression on the clearly slower car, seems in conflict with the view of the race as one of individual pace, and gives Vettel some undeserved points

    Of course for the other group of race fans, this is a fascinating example of how there being teams can add an extra dimension to the championship (although I might say that if we were to look at things that way, there’s a question as to why there is a separate drivers and constructors championship, but that’s for another day!)

    • subcritical71

      Scoot, you bring some good points about driver vs team. I can see both points of view and also realize those two view will collide. I believe I was thinking the same thing about the lack of Ferrari team orders, that by not giving a team order, that this was indeed an implicit team order!

      • Scoot Just Scoot

        Intrigued as to who else thought that – Kimi’s frustration was palpable, but of course it could just be that it was impossible to get close and overtake at all on Sunday.

  • Michael

    Folks, true racing fans, I beg you. Do not let these overt team orders to become acceptable. Fans let F1 know in Austria 2002. As a Michael Schumacher fan from his first race in F1, even I was embarrassed.

    But…since we are here…
    1. If you are going to get on the radio and make a deal you better stick to it. There is nothing virtuous about that.

    2. Lewis had no choice but to give the place back and waiting until the last possible second allowed him and the team to exhaust all other possibilities for bad luck to hit Bottas. First of all, as I mentioned in the other post-race post, Hamilton would not of wanted to face Coulthard and the fans. That worked last year when he basically told everyone in the crowd to piss-off because there was already extreme animosity between teammates. That wouldn’t have flown this year. Not only that, there was already a very annoyed Finnish contingent that missed out on a gifted win to their man Raikkonen.

    3. Bottas is STILL well within striking distance. He has a real chance to win, not just a mathematical chance. Slowing down and handing over a place is just wrong. Don’t care about the track. It’s wrong. Obviously you don’t race your teammate as hard as Verstappen does, but c’mon, at least take a legitimate shot. Bottas has shown that he will not fight his teammate hard on a pass. But…back to why you give the position back..If he hadn’t and Bottas had to endure the embarrassment of being the frog, I doubt very seriously he would follow a team order like that again. Bottas is still the frog though and I suspect Hamilton will show his true scorpion self when it really matters.

    4.As I have said before, if you can move your guys around with under or overcut, I’m not bothered by that, just don’t blatantly do it on the track. In Monaco, a lot of stress again about Vettel and Raikkonen, but Vettel had to put in some great laps to just barely get out in front of Raikkonen…This, again, is racing folks and if had been say Hamilton that did those laps and barely got in front of Vettel, everyone would be going crazy about a great Hamilton drive.

    OH…We all missed a thumbs up and maybe the drive of the day for Vettel who drove with a severely out of align steering wheel and being told to not use the curbs. Still was running fast times. Back in the day…when it was a real competition… We would have said, “Vettel did what he needed to do to get the win”. Now we say, “Ferrari robbed Raikkonen of a win”??? Shaking My Head.

  • Hanwi

    I think there is a historical context at play here that makes the argument disingenuous. Ferrari has always had a #1/#2 driver scheme. In this case Vettel is clearly the number one as was Schumacher to Barichello. The call for Ferrari drivers to hold position keeps with the established 1/2 Ferrari narrative, as does Barrichello being told to let Schumacher by for the sake of their #1 driver. When a faster driver is told to let a slower driver by it leaves a sour taste in the spectators mouth, which is the Ferrari philosophy for the sake of their #1. Mercedes did just the opposite which is in fact praiseworthy. They let the faster driver by with the caveat that if he could not pass Raikkonen then he would have to swap back positions to the detriment of Lewis, something Ferrari would never allow for Vettel.