In last night’s race review podcast, we discussed the reaction of Mercedes to the incident at the Belgian Grand Prix. In fact, both Mark and I gave the Donkey Award to the team for their handling of the situation.
It’s all well and good when you can get a driver to speak their mind on an issue and Lewis Hamilton did just that although some feel it was more like slander, he was convinced that teammate Ncio Rosberg “basically” did it on purpose. Fair enough, that’s the kind of frank, blunt talking that many fans feel has been missing from the corporate, sterilized world F1 has become.
The team’s reaction, however, is where you would expect some balance and calm in the face of a storm and that’s the exact opposite of what Mercedes offered their drivers and the situation.
Immediately after the race, Mercedes bosses Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda took to the press heaping scorn on Rosberg and actually apologizing to Lewis. They hadn’t even been afforded the view of both drivers and some time to assess the situation. For a company as large as Mercedes, it was a amateur move to be sure.
You don’t have to take my word for it, what do I know? I don’t run an F1 team but Eric Boullier does and he that it was a junior league move as well telling AUTOSPORT:
“It depends on how much coverage you want after in the press,” he said. “If you start to blame the drivers then obviously it is a policy that I will not recommend.
“It is better to clear the air outside of the track, but I am happy to not have that problem to manage. In the end you tend to think you are shooting yourself – but this is part of racing as well.”
The guy who just signed a 3-year contract extension is now getting punished for what race stewards saw as a “racing incident” and perhaps a hamfisted move—which it was. The comments from Hamilton were already pregnant with accusation, innuendos and incendiary words and while that’s a driver’s point of view and something I have no issue with, the team’s heaping scorn on Rosberg and pandering to Hamilton who was a victim of a hamfisted passing attempt is just wrong.
The history of F1 is littered with these exact moves and passing attempts that haven’t worked the way the challenging driver had hoped. For Mercedes to castigate their own driver for a racing incident only emboldens Lewis’s actions and commentary which is the thing you’re suppose to be trying to get a handle on.
When Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber came together in Turkey a few years ago, the team didn’t give Vettel a public dressing down, they managed the situation and had compassion for Mark while suggesting that the move may have not been the best but it’s racing.
Mercedes could learn from Eric Boullier and McLaren who have managed their own stable of alpha males in the past with Prost and Senna and while the team has made mistakes in the past—Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso comes to mind—they’ve learned how not to react after an incident. Something Mercedes needs to consider.