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A week later and Mercedes has held an all-hands-on-deck meeting regarding the incident between drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. The outcome—if not predictable—was that the team released three press statements in which:

Rosberg apologized to the team, fans and Lewis Hamilton and took blame for the racing incident.

Hamilton accepted the apology and admitted that things got a little out of hand as well as the fact that he feels he can still work with Nico going forward.

Mercedes got to state quite clearly that they are benefitting Formula 1 by letting their drivers race but simply desire that neither of them hit each other in the process and that disciplinary action has been taken within the team—whatever that means.

So there you have it, Mercedes has managed the situation to the point of getting their championship-leading driver to apologize to the world and their other championship-winning driver to tell the world he accepts the apology as well as may have reacted a little too much and the team gets to tell the world they are a beacon of moral fortitude by letting their drivers race hard against each other—with one caveat…don’t hit each other.

This is all great until one of them hits the other in the final races. The question I have is this:

This was, by all precedent in this sport, a racing incident and nothing more. The stakes were high because Lewis lost quite a few points in the process but so did Fernando Alonso in 2012 when Kimi Raikkonen did the very same thing to him and took him out of the Japanese Grand Prix.

One need look no further than Singapore in 2011 to see Lewis Hamilton do the same thing to Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. It happens in Formula 1 and unfortunately the stakes are very high and the competition is simply between one team such is the domination in the sport this year. If this were Nico on Vettel, doubtful anyone would be saying much.

I’m unclear as to why Lewis is admitting mistakes because he did nothing wrong. Sure, he was ticked off and when someone stuck a microphone in his face, he said so but is that a big deal?

Ultimately the one thing the press statements didn’t address was the elephant in the room—deliberate intent. That’s what Lewis implied and he said that Nico admitted it. This was the issue that had fans angry and booing so why not take a moment to clear that up as well? Unless you want to continue the conspiracy but not addressing it so Hamilton fans will say the team didn’t mention it as it was true and Nico’s apology was supposed to make amends for it.

I don’t envy the team and its position but they knew what they were getting in to when the kicked Michael Schumacher to the curb in favor of Hamilton—two very fast and competitive drivers who were on par with each other and most likely battling for the same real estate on the track. They also knew Lewis brings a certain galvanization to the team with the press and fan reaction to any incident involving himself and the rest of the world and they knew he can be a handful in situations like this—see McLaren 2007.

The team seems to be doing its best but you might be wondering if we’re seeing the Ross Brawn vacuum in action here. As I said, it’s my opinion that this didn’t need an apology but the only thing that really merited discussion was the deliberate intent accusation and if it was deliberate, then that’s a whole new conversation but Mercedes chose not to address that.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Rapierman

    This all boils down to four mistakes:

    1. Rosberg made an error in judgment. That’s all it was. It should have stopped right there. He apologized, and that should have been the end of it However, that brings us to…

    2. Hamilton is a manipulator. He attempted to manipulate the entire Human Race to get them behind him and to excoriate Rosberg. Fortunately, the FIA didn’t fall for it. Go read Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. People who do that sort of thing lose a lot of respect as far as I’m concerned. The worst part of this is that he didn’t have to do it. Everyone could see that it was an error in judgement, and everyone already knows that Hamilton is a champion driver. There was no need to go crying to the audience and the FIA. The dude has an inferiority complex. He feels he needs to have his ego stroked, and he’s been successful at that so far. To make matters worse, he aired out dirty laundry. One does not do that, ever. (Remember “Tweetgate”?) And then there was….

    3. Mercedes management, which had just projected themselves as weak. Is Merc missing Ross Brawn? That’s definitely part of it, but one does not scream down an employee in front of God and country. Not only did they look weak, they bit on Hamilton’s hook. They need to go take lessons in management. Finally, there was….

    4. The general public (remember, I said “general”, nobody specific). They bit on Hamilton’s whining, hook, line and sinker. They just proved that they’re nothing but sheep who can’t think for themselves. How fortunate we are the FIA kept a level head and saw it for what it was (and so did you and your readership, we’re all smart guys for sure).

    If it had stopped at Rosberg and everything was kept in-house, none of this extra stuff would have ever happened and we wouldn’t be talking about it. I do wish Hamilton would stop, now. He doesn’t need to pull this BS, and that’s sad.

  • NickLauda

    I’m tempted to rant and lean into the conversation like so many others with the usual he did this, he did that. Well, that depends on the point of view.

    Folks, I love the tension and the show that is playing out right now. Very much reminiscent of the Senna Prost tension. We get to witness two great drivers fighting for the world championship with everything they have. Actually very entertaining. After all, this is more a show than a sport at this stage… considering DRS and all the other artificial show enhancers.

    Mercedes, don’t get involved! Let them fight! One of them will be the champion. Nothing to lose but some points… and some money. Easily offset by the current media exposure.
    Nico could just as well have broken his front wing and Lewis could not have suffered a flat. But… Both drivers are highly motivated and honestly, I expected this “get together” already at St. Devote, 1rst turn in Monaco.

    So, let’s lean back and enjoy the show. Next up, first chicane Monza. I can’t wait.

    Best regards,

    NickLauda

    • In the end, that’s where I am on this as well. It was a racing incident between two drivers hashing it out for the title like Senna and Prost (to be fair, neither are Senna nor Prost) and the fireworks are half the fun of it. After all, isn’t this what we all said we wanted? More passing, socially responsible F1, all-new super technology regulations? ;) This little driver battle, in many ways, is keeping me engaged in what would otherwise be a frustrating year for me seeing the impact that these contrivances have had on the sport. This “teething” year for hybrids and the continuance of DRS and HD tires may have put me over the edge but two drivers banging wheels for a title is keeping some drama and controversy in the championship. Let’s hope Mercedes stay out of the way of the “spicy show” F1 has given us.

  • Rapierman

    Didn’t they use to call that “Gunfight at the OK Corral” or something?

  • I like how you put it Todd, “The team seems to be doing its best but you might be wondering if we’re seeing the Ross Brawn vacuum in action here.” I’ve heard you talk on several occasions about how Ross Brawn knew how to come on the radio and get things under control on the track. I don’t know if he would be the solution to the drivers quarrels, but I do get a sense that the lack of clear leadership at the team is fostering the kind of behavior we are seeing. It’s a perfect storm.

  • Mercedes said in the first statement “racing incident”, implying that they do not believe Rosberg’s action was deliberate. So there isn’t an elephant in the room because it’s been discreetly shooed out of the door by the house butler. A butler who can be very proud of their work as nobody noticed them removing a huge grey animal out of the venue.

  • NeilM

    I see it as a racing incident. But it’s worth remembering that, given the almost non-existent rearward visibility from an F1 car, only the following car’s driver really knows where his car is in relation to the other. From that standpoint it was an incident that Rosberg was in a position to avoid.

  • JakobusVdL

    A good op-ed NC, you make an excellent observation. I suspect the elephant will remain unremarked, I expect part of the deal is that Hamilton has to pull his head in, stop the whinging, and comments to the media.
    It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and how far Mercedes will take their sanctions if the drivers collide, impede each other, or fail to follow team orders – and what sanctions they are prepared to use. They are desperate to win the wcc and wdc, so can’t pull drivers out of the cars.