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Let me share a few statistics with you. Since racing began in earnest way back in March, I have written a post about Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg, or both, a total of thirteen times, which by my calculations is something like 14,000 words (but who’s counting?) that I have already dedicated to these two drivers. This is not too surprising due to the fact that they are the lead candidates for this year’s WDC, not to mention they are on the same team and are piloting the exact same all-conquering W05 chassis.

I am not complaining, mind you, I am fully committed to writing yet more words dedicated to these two, but after the lap two incident in Belgium where these two Mercedes teammates came together, resulting in a deflating tire for Hamilton and a compromised front wing end plate for Rosberg, which in the end allowed Daniel Ricciardo to claim his third race win this year and second in a row, I quickly realized it would be many more words than I could have ever imagined and so here I go with post number fourteen.

This will not be a post about who was wrong or right. It won’t be a post about what Rosberg actually said to Hamilton in the post-race debrief or what he has admitted to. Nor will it be a post about Hamilton rightly or wrongly going to the press to vilify his teammate. Many other journos and bloggers have already weighed in on these topics and I am in agreement with most of these writer’s observations.

What interests me most in the aftermath of Belgium is my extreme sense of déjà vu. Doesn’t anybody else get the feeling that we have seen this scenario before? And by that I mean to say, this ‘exact’ scenario play out between two teammates that were in the same team and in the same position to win the title?

I’m not talking about the Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost rivalry which has already been mentioned at length by the press as a comparison to the Merc duo and no again, I am not talking about Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel either, when the two were virtually neck and neck for the 2010 season which also produced plenty of drama between the two Red Bull drivers right up to the last race in Abu Dhabi. Please note that in both of the preceding cases, one of the warring drivers actually did win the championship, so the rivalry did not have any negative consequences in the end.

Ah, now you are starting to see my point perhaps. I am referring to the 2007 season when Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were teammates driving the silver and red cars for McLaren and Ron Dennis was still a fixture on the pit wall.

In case the 2007 details are a little fuzzy in your memory, here are some highlights.

2007
Australian Grand Prix
 In his first ever Grand Prix at Melbourne, Lewis Hamilton overtook Alonso around the outside of the first corner. The move squeezed Alonso who later retook the position thanks to a more preferable fuel strategy. (I barely knew who Lewis was at this point but that was all about to change.)

Monaco Grand Prix 
Alonso claimed victory at the Monaco GP ahead of Lewis Hamilton, but the young Brit was publicly upset with the result and felt the team had deliberately stopped him from winning by making him pit earlier than required. Lewis grumpily told reporters “it is something I have to live with. I’ve number two on my car and I am the number two driver.’ The FIA investigated the possibility that McLaren had instigated illegal team orders but later cleared them of any wrongdoing. (What about Malaysia 2013 Lewis, talk about irony?)

Canadian Grand Prix
 Hamilton took his first pole position in Montreal and emerged as a genuine championship contender. Alonso, feeling the pressure from his rookie teammate, ran off the road at the first corner whilst trying a desperate maneuver to overtake Hamilton. (We haven’t seen that anywhere this year, have we now?)

United States Grand Prix
Both McLaren drivers were at the top of their game in Indianapolis and engaged in a close fight for the race lead. Hamilton firmly defended his position against Alonso whilst heading towards turn one, leaving Fernando to swerve at the McLaren pit wall a lap later in disgust. (Teams will never be able to completely appease two drivers, not then, not now.)

Hungarian Grand Prix
 During qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hamilton does not pull over and let Alonso by as planned for a predetermined fuel burn prior to Fernando’s hot lap. This possibly explains why Fernando Alonso later parked his McLaren in the team’s pit garage whilst Hamilton was trying to make a stop for tires. Lewis was left waiting in the pit lane until Alonso moved, and the subsequent delay prevented him from completing his final qualifying lap. McLaren and Alonso claimed the hold up resulted from a delayed radio conversation, but the FIA did not agree and punished them both. Hamilton didn’t emerge unscathed from the incident either, having conducted a fiery exchange with Ron Dennis over the radio. (I can remember this day with astonishing clarity, I’m pretty sure so do Ron Dennis, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. It seemed to be the point at which the feud started running the team rather than a strategy.)

Belgian Grand Prix 
Both McLaren drivers arrived at the first corner of the Grand Prix side by side. Alonso had the inside line but swung wide from the apex and pushed Lewis off the circuit. Hamilton used the tarmac run off area to his advantage but Alonso had made his point and held the position. (It would seem Rosberg has read from this script word for word.)

Chinese Grand Prix
 Alonso became so enraged with the speed of Lewis Hamilton’s last minute qualifying lap that he broke a door in McLaren’s motorhome during a tantrum. (One can easily imagine Lewis acting in the same manner post-Belgium). By now Fernando was convinced the British team was tampering with his efforts to win the championship, possibly even favoring the Briton over the Spaniard due to nationalism. (Lewis, now being the non-German on the German team, has made some references to German nationalism himself. I guess he learned something from the 2007 script as well.)

Brazilian Grand Prix (2007 World Championship Finale) 
Although McLaren had the speed and the talent, missed points throughout the season meant that neither driver had clinched the championship heading into the last race. Lewis was slightly ahead but either would need a good finish to claim the WDC. In the first lap, Alonso passed Lewis and then while defending his position forced Lewis off the road onto the curbing. Ultimately a gearbox issue put Hamilton back in 18th place, possibly a result of the first lap curb driving. Hamilton finishes in 7th, Alonso finishes 3rd, and Kimi Raikkonen, who had not led the championship at any point in the season, finishes first and claims the WDC. (This is where I picture Ron Dennis sobbing behind closed doors.)

I think everyone in Formula One, including both drivers and Ron Dennis, is pretty clear that the driver feuding throughout the season cost McLaren and one of their drivers the championship.

Could this happen in 2014? Oh no, you say, the Mercedes drivers are miles ahead, no one is near them. Everyone (including this blogger) says that the championship is a done deal for either Lewis or Nico. I recall quite clearly those same conversations being had in 2007 with the names Lewis and Alonso. Literally no one in 2007 would have imagined Kimi Raikkonen, behind Hamilton almost 20 points at the half way mark of the season, would end up with the driver’s trophy. And yet he did. Could a similar astonishing result occur this year? Let’s go to the numbers and look at the driver’s scores in 2007 and 2014, just past the season midpoint, which is where we are right now.

2007:
Lewis Hamilton 84
Fernando Alonso 79
Kimi Raikkonen 68
This is when the points for 1st thru 8th were 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. So let’s just say that Kimi is one win, plus 7 points (at least a 2nd place) away from the WDC, if Hamilton also had two races where he scored 0 points, and the drivers were otherwise equivalent.

2014:
Nico Rosberg 220
Lewis Hamilton 191
Daniel Ricciardo 156
The points in 2014 for 1st thru 8th are 25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, and all will be DOUBLED for the final race. So one could say that Daniel is one win (in Abu Dhabi) and 15 points (at least a 3rd place in any other race) away from the WDC, if Nico had a couple races with zero points. Say, if he got run off the road by, or in an accident with, his teammate.

Not such a stretch, is it? Especially since Ricciardo has won the last TWO races. Daniel Ricciardo has not missed any opportunity Mercedes has thrown his way this year. He is driving for the most part at an extremely high level, has not buckled under the pressure of Mega Team Red Bull, or the guy on the other side of his garage who happens to be a four times champion and for that matter no one else on the grid in front or behind. It might sound a little ludicrous but
Now looking at history we can see how things could easily change dramatically for Rosberg and Hamilton if they continue to be hotheaded about this feud, not to mention Toto, Paddy, and Niki.

By the way, if Ricciardo does win the title wouldn’t that just make Sebastian Vettel go completely bookers? But that is another post altogether and don’t you worry, if that should happen my fingers will be typing so fast there might be burnout marks on the home keys.

Back to the point at hand. One week on, Rosberg says it was an error in judgment. Lewis for his part has admitted they have both made mistakes (not so sure what mistake he is talking about – at least in regards to racing on the track). I am slightly ambivalent to all the apologizing and no more finger pointing and good will on both sides of this issue. Part of me thinks this is exactly what needed to happen so the team and its drivers can get back to winning a championship for Mercedes and/or each other, and part of me thinks it is all window dressing and the schism between Hamilton and Rosberg is even greater now with the team principals sinking in the middle.

Monza is up in just under a week’s time. This is the highest average speed circuit on the F1 calendar so presumably it will be a track where the Mercedes cars will be out in front and the ones piloted by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will be leading the pack. All eyes will be on the driver that starts in front, but more importantly on he who starts behind, whoever it is that has to make the pass for position. How hard will these drivers race each other and to what degree will one try to force the issue?

Eddie Jordan has called the Mercedes bosses rudderless. We are about to see if that is really the case and while Jordan tends to use hyperbolae to get across his points, there might be some truth to his statement. Right now only Rosberg and Hamilton can answer the question whether all has been put to bed and I’m not referring to the answer given when the press asks the question. Nope, the question will be asked by the track at Monza and the answer will be given when the last of the red lights go out and the racing begins. Are they ready, are you ready, is F1 ready for their answer? I sure hope so…

  • I entertained similar paralleling 2014 to 2007, but not to this extent; well done!

    The minor distinctions IMO are each pre-season dynamics and vehicle development. First, Rosberg was the solid/unspectacular incumbent to Hamilton’s star, whereas he was the future potential to the champion winning incumbent Alonso in ’07. Despite RBR’s admirable power unit gains, I don’t foresee a serious challenge at most remaining tracks, whereas F2007 was as fast overall (if less-reliable) as MP4-22.

    On balance, these distinctions are far outweighed by the similarities mentioned. One further parallel to me is mishandling by upper management. Whereas the circumstances differ, namely personnel and preference, the decision to let the teammates race (which I applaud) and inabilitiies of upper management to stamp out driver ego might allow Ricciardo to pull a Raikkonen.

    More texture in a tasty dish.

    • Hey Jeff
      Thanks. Your point about the comparison of the two competing chassis is quite true and one I did not touch upon. And management could definitely use Ross Brawn’s experience right about now. It is a shame that Brawn was ousted right after all the foundation work he did for this year and right before what would have been a championship for a four constructor/driver.

  • Frank

    I love your comparison
    I think Lewis only mistake is that he told to the press what was talked about in the debrief and interpreted it in his way- I guess this is about as illegal as posting the setup data after Jenson beat him in qualifying in Spa some time ago.
    I am surprised that nobody is analyzing Nicos reaction in Spa after Mercedes changed their rules that were set up before the first GP this year.
    If I understand Wolffs words after Budapest correctly the rule was that if a driver has got a chance to win the GP and is on a different strategy, the other one has to let him pass. Nico had the chance and his pit stop strategy was built on that rule. Lewis disobeyed the team order to let Nico pass and Mercedes lost 13 points (difference 1st to 4th). I don´t think it was wrong to change the rule (absolute bull…) but is absolutely unfair to change it after one team member disobeyed it and got the points himself and his team dropping a lot of them. Nobody picked up this topic. I guess the British press did not because it would be against Lewis but why didn´t anybody else?
    I guess Nico was less compliant because he was still angry and produced an avoidable racing incident.

    • Frank
      Thank you for that. While there seems to be universal agreement about the events of Belgium (do to the fact that Rosberg admitted to something to the team) the events of Hungry as you have very nicely pointed out are much more unclear. If you read or watch some coverage Rosberg was never close enough to warrant Hamilton to let him through (a view I am in agreement with).
      Then there is an equal amount of pundits, commentator and a considerable number of fans of the sport which think Hamilton was definitely in the wrong and should have let Rosberg by due to the different strategies.
      This one is a hard one to call b/c there is a good argument on both sides and had the situation been marginally different in Hungry the result would have been very different.

  • JimmyClarkFan

    Excellent comparison, Negative Camber.

    The common element to both of those years is that Hamilton is essentially a cheater who has always put his own interest above the team’s by blatantly violating agreed upon team protocols when it suits him, with full support of the nationalistically biased British media.

    The key to the 2007 season was what happened in qualifying in Hungary. The qualifying rules in 2007 were giving slight advantage to the driver who went out first. Within the McLaren team a protocol was agreed to – who’s going first was supposed to alternate between the races.

    In Hungary, it was Alonso’s turn to go out first, and Hamilton followed on his tail. However, immediately upon entering the track on the warm up lap Hamilton passed Alonso and stole that advantage (which he had in the prior race), later claiming that Alonso was slowed down by a back marker in front and he was concerned of the consequences to his own qualifying effort (?!).

    It’s not hard to imagine how Alonso felt about that and the fact that the team failed to undo the cheating – Rosberg probably felt similarly aggrieved after being cheated in Hungary 2014. As a retribution, FA held LH back at the end of the qualifying session to prevent him from having the extra lap that would have been the benefit of Hamilton’s cheating. Team did noting to sanction Hamilton for obvious breach of agreed upon team protocol, just like Mercedes has done this time – see the comment above by Frank. Instead, it was Alonso who pad the price of this incident.

    Upon intervention by then FIA president Mosley, and to the surprise of any dispassionate observer, these intra-team shenanigans were for the first time ever reviewed and sanctioned by the FIA stewards. Alonso was given a grid penally that took away the pole position on a track notorious for most difficult passing. As a consequence, the points he lost (7 points to both Kimi and Lewis [+5 – (-2)]) cost Alonso and McLaren the 2007 title (he was 1 point behind Kimi in the end).

    Of course, it was Alonso who was crucified by the British press at the time, just like Rosberg was this time. The unity of McLaren as a team was destroyed, not for the first time under the management of Ron Dennis (remember Senna/Prost), and the losers were McLaren and then current world champion Alonso.

    Will the history of the dominant team shooting itself in the foot and losing the title repeat itself remains to be seen.

  • Jimmy Clark Fan

    NegitiveCamber did not author this post I did, but thanks for the compliment, anytime someone mistakes me for COO of this site that is a good thing ;-)

    What a great comment and further detailed review of Hungry 2007. where were you back in 2007, 2008, 2009 when it seemed I was the only one who was defending Alonso and setting the record straight about Hamilton and what he did to cause the issue back then. Man I could have used your clear and concise words to battle all the Alonso haters. Some of the stuff I read back then, just totally out of control.

    I agree with everything you say but in this case I am not as quick to think Hamilton cheated this time around. I really depends on how you view Hungry and whether Hamilton was right or wrong to disobey the order to let Rosberg by. Niki Lauds says it was wrong to issue the order and basically supporting Hamilton, no secret there Lauds is a huge supporter of Ham, but was that just to appease the press and get this issue out of the way? I wonder.

    As it turned out all that did was infuriate Rosberg and pushed him to ‘stand up for himself’ which in the end cost Mercedes to lose yet another race to Red Bull.

    I don’t think this issues has been put to rest as much as Mercedes would like us to think. In Monza the whole track is basically a passing zone, so this should be one of the most watched races of the year and not for the simple reason that it is the Italian GP, because Lewis rightly or wrongly has a score to settle. How he goes about it is what we will all be watching out for.
    -jp-

  • John

    Am I the only one who thinks the attitudes are like that of Lauda v. Hunt in a way?

    While Nico isn’t like Nikki in the aspect of being instrumental in making the car faster, Lewis is so similar to Hunt with the Playboy lifestyle. Follow him on Facebook to see what I mean.

  • JimmyClarkFan

    Johnpierre,

    Sorry for my confusion, I overlooked your name below the article.

    Thanks for your kind words regarding my Hungary 2007 comments. Were you guys up and running back in 2007? I only recently discovered your site and enjoy it immensely – it appears to be the only English language site that I can find that is not pro-Lewis biased.

    As far as Lewis cheating in Hungary let me restate what Frank pointed above: the team rule agreed to at the beginning of the season was that if a driver has got a chance to win the GP and is on a different strategy, the other one has to let him pass. The team looked at the telemetry, did the lap time projection and issued the order. Nico was not supposed to be fighting Lewis to get by in that situation so he never attacked, expecting Lewis to move over at a convenient point on the racetrack. That expectation was his mistake, cause Lewis just chose to ignore the order. If Nico had pressured him instead, it would have been very obvious to everyone what Lewis was doing. However, that would have caused undue extra tire degradation, and I guess Nico was hoping that he’ll win by avoiding the fight and preserving his tires to shorten the last stint on super-softs. In the end that strategy was 1 lap to short.

    Lewis was in no position to question the judgment of the team which was based on the telemetry and computer lap time projections, except that it was in his personal interest to prevent Nico from winning. And so he did, correctly betting that the team will do everything to avoid embarrassment by calling him out. He couldn’t care less if that meant one less win and fewer points total for the team. His personal interests were at stake and he had no qualms violating the agreed upon protocol just like in 2007 – that’s the parallel I was trying to make.

    His hypocrisy was immediately in full display as he played the British media sending them into a frenzy. Anyone who forgot his past behavior in the reverse role should look at the video that Negative Camber included in his race report:
    http://www.formula1blog.com/f1-news/race-report-danny-wins-nico-hit-me-on-purpose/
    and here:
    http://www.formula1blog.com/f1-news/fia-will-not-intervene-in-hamilton-rosberg-incident/
    where one can also see how Kimi did the same to Alonso in Japan 2012 kicking him out of the race with no punishment, resulting in yet another lost championship by only 3 points.

    To put it simply – Lewis has no shame.

    Seeing that Lewis can get away with this kind of behavior, no wonder that Rosberg decided to stand up for himself. He wanted to show Lewis that he will not back out, and he left it for Lewis to decide whether to leave him room or close the door and risk the accident. To presume that Nico was counting on cutting Lewis’ tire is just preposterous. As Vettel pointed out – driver can’t see the end of his wing and is far more likely to ruin his own race than the opponents. Nico was willing to take that risk to prove a point that he will not be bullied anymore. In the end, he was just lucky that he came out on top. Given Lewis’ reckless past, it just might be karma catching up with him.

    Please keep up with great work you guys are doing here. As far as I am concerned, and I’ve been watching F1 since 1962, this is by far the best English language site covering F1.

    • JimmyClarkFan
      I feel’ ya on the site, when I found it, I was like HELL YA..
      Ok to your follow-up points. Very well spoken. Did not know about the preseason arrangement. Great point about Nico not wanting to over work his tires on that particular stint. I would say that Nico not being able to pass Vergne didn’t help matters for the German, but still I see your point.
      Could it be that had Nico and Lewis come together earlier in the race then this pre-season arrangement would have be more forcefully applied by the team? Who knows.
      And yes drivers are very selfish, but that is part of what makes them so interesting as has been stated many times by most of us who watch this sport about many of its star drivers. Great conversation…
      -jp-

  • Toadd more to JP’s point… if Ricciardo hadn’t have lost his 18 points for second place in Melbourne via the Stewards, he’d be only 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton in second. Less than a race win. Less than a race second.

    Pos Driver Nationality Team Points
    1 Nico Rosberg German Mercedes 220
    2 Lewis Hamilton British Mercedes 191
    3 Daniel Ricciardo Australian Red Bull Racing-Renault 156 [ **174 ]
    4 Fernando Alonso Spanish Ferrari 121
    5 Valtteri Bottas Finnish Williams-Mercedes 110
    6 Sebastian Vettel German Red Bull Racing-Renault 98
    7 Nico Hulkenberg German Force India-Mercedes 70
    8 Jenson Button British McLaren-Mercedes 68
    9 Felipe Massa Brazilian Williams-Mercedes 40
    10 Kimi Räikkönen Finnish Ferrari 39
    11 Kevin Magnussen Danish McLaren-Mercedes 37
    12 Sergio Perez Mexican Force India-Mercedes 33

    The 2007 Season repeat may have been squashed by FIA intervention at the first race. Then again…. maybe not. 50 points in “Abu Doubly” can make a big faked difference. Jack Flash

    • Right…
      Ricciardo has Newey and Horner to thank for that misstep. I think the RB10 would have still podiumed with the FIA’s fuel setting.

  • JakobusVdL

    Thanks JP and posters, this is a really interesting op-ed. It does seem that Hamilton has been getting away with bending the rules, this season and in the past. It is really interesting to be informed on the history from 2007, and other incidents from previous seasons.
    How far do you think Mercedes will go with their threat to sack either of the drivers if they cause incidents in future races?

    • hey Jakbous VdL
      Thanks for the kind words. In answer to your question, I think the racers in the team Wolff, Lowe and Lauda understand the situation perfectly and would be a little more understanding to their situation, but the Merc board will have no more of the bad press. Boards unlike Hollywood, or Eccelstone don’t think that even bad press is good press.
      I don’t think there is any way either driver will let themselves get into a position where the team would have to take such a severe action, but if say there were a few more unintentional accidents, then who knows what could happen. Italia was a no show for a true battle between the Merc duo, but Singapore could be very different… I can’t wait….
      -jp-