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After the Hungarian Grand Prix’s awkward team order incident that split the teams opinion on the issue, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has added clarity to the “team orders” for the remainder of the season telling German paper, Bild via the Independent’s Ian Parkes:

“We will augment our team agreement that the driver behind must clearly show he is faster before a passing manoeuvre can be instructed.

“No one should have to go off the gas. Our drivers are allowed to freely compete for the rest of the season when it comes to the victory.”

When I say clarity, I assume this makes things perfectly clear or does it. I’m not in the garage or working on the pit wall but catching a car is one thing and passing is another. What constitutes “clearly” in his mind? Clearly Nico Rosberg was setting faster lap times up until the point he caught Lewis Hamilton and as we all know, running in dirty air and behind a equally competitive car can slow you down and wear your tires even more.

There have been times when teams have instructed driver to keep a 2 second gap in order not the be impacted by the aerodynamic effect of the car in front. Was this a factor in Rosberg’s position behind Lewis in Hungary? To guess would be offering uneducated speculation so I won’t venture down that rabbit trail but suffice to say, now we will  be parsing words such as “clearly”.

A Mercedes is “clearly” faster than a Caterham but it’s hard to imagine it being “clearly” faster than another Mercedes. The battle in Bahrain was back and forth but neither car was “clearly” faster than the other one. If you consider a tenth faster lap time on the lap just prior to catching the other car, is that “clearly” faster? If that were the case, then I think Nico was faster…clearly. If you consider crawling up their backside, that could have implications for the trailing car’s race strategy due to the impact that could have on the tires, fuel or brakes. Most likely the tires.

In the end, this is all just noise. I don’t think any public statement needed to be made to “clarify” the situation and if you ask me, which you didn’t, I say let them race and stop trying to micromanage the drivers. Mercedes has the constructor’s title won so why mess about with the driver’s title?  One of them will win it…so let them win it.

As Paul and I have discussed on podcasts prior, it is surprising how much information the team shares with one driver about the other. I have to think that this manufactures some of the drama in the Mercedes camp all by itself. Let each side of the garage choose their race and run it.

Many people talk about this season being an epic year for F1 with incredible racing and while I appreciate that enthusiasm, it’s hard to ignore the simple fact that one team is clubbing the competition like seals on an ice flow.

Being that this has become the Mercedes world championship, why not at least offer some spirited competition within the team to make it slightly more interesting since Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren seem to be incapable of mounting any consistent challenge so far save versus two wins for the energy drink team when Mercedes stubbed their toe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not begrudging Mercedes their domination, I have no problem with a team dominating F1. That can happen in F1 and you need look no further than the last four years or the first four years of the 2,000’s to see that. What I am suggesting is that Mercedes avoid the Ferrari-like domination when even when in complete control, Rubens Barrichello was always reined in.

If Red Bull’s Mark Webber was being held back in favor of Sebastian Vettel the last four years, the team did a much better job of disguising it. Even to the point of offering some bad blood between the two drivers over Multi 21 or the Turkish clash. Ferrari was not as relaxed internally as that with a clear mission to place Michael Schumacher on the top step of every podium. To be fair, Rubens won a few races when Schumacher fell into trouble or mechanical issues rarely caught him out.

It’s easy for me to say but if I were running that team, I would control the situation as much as possible because in the end, it is a team sport and getting Mercedes to a controlled and favorable result is the mission. The fan in me say let them race and it may avoid everyone being completely outraged by what is surely heading to a goofy double-points finish in Abu Dhabi that will rob one of the driver in Mercedes a clearly won title.

How frustrating will it be if Lewis fought his way back and got back into the lead in the second half of the season only the lose the title by three points because Nico won in Abu Dhabi? If the team let them race now, the cream may rise to the top and avoid a driver’s title that many will place an asterisk next to.

 

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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.
  • Clearly it’s all very clear now. Ahem.

  • I translate this as “no Mercedes will pass another unless the one in front is broken, there’s a faster rival catching both – or one driver gets a distinct advantage over the other in the title chase”.

  • Brody

    If it’s the case that one person is calling the strategy for both Lewis and Nico, this individual can have too much of an influence in determining the winner of the 2014 WDC.

  • rapierman

    Clearly, Wolff’s referring to a “prima facae” advantage (e.g., it’s pretty damn obvious to the untrained eye).

  • offcamberm3

    I recall some awesome racing between Lewis and Nico earlier this season. Let them race. There will likely be one seriously stupid, embarrassing incident where they take each other out, then they will both be embarrassed and play a little nicer the rest of the season. Mercedes will still easily win the constructor title, one of their drivers will take the driver’s championship and the other will take second. And me as a fan will be seriously entertained! Mercedes should take the long view and put the entertainment factor above “avoid corporate embarrassment at all costs”. It will be better for the sport, which will be better for Mercedes in the long run (more excitement, more exposure, more media, all for the same money).
    Of course, it’s easy for me to write this. I sure as hell wouldn’t take this risk at my job. But they should let them race and reap the benefits of the increased exposure.
    If they take each other out a second time, then Mercedes would have everyone’s support for castrating both of those idiots.

  • mark h

    The Wolff quote in same article which the UK press neglected to translate was worth reading: “We issued the team order because we thought that, with it, both our drivers on their split strategies could have fought for the win, not just for a podium.”
    The lap times bear out his theory, especially considering Hamilton’s gradual drop in pace as Rosberg was behind.
    Hamilton’s times (no idea if this was problem-related, or very smart thinking from Hamilton re closing phases, but struggle to believe it’s coincidence):
    52: 88.18s
    53: 88.6
    54: 88.96
    55: 89.31
    56: 88.39 (Rosberg in-lap)
    57: 88.0 (out-lap)
    58: 87.96
    59: 87.49
    And then he’s caught up with Alonso and slows…

    All that said, I’d rather Merc issued no team orders whatsoever at this point, at any speed/strategic situation. It’s all in the bag. (He says from the safety of an armchair!)

  • It’s going to be fun watching the final podium of the season! Will the driver who got ripped off by the double points be able to keep his cool up there? Oh boy, I guess the FIA and F1 have got it right