The British press is up in arms about Lewis Hamilton’s tactics late in the 2016 season finale in Abu Dhabi when he refused to follow directions from the Mercedes pit wall to speed up. Instead, the Brit stated he had nothing to lose with his title rival sitting in second place, so he opted to try and slow the cars down behind him in the hope Ferrari and Red Bull would be able to pass and put themselves between him and Rosberg at the finish line.
The plan, to have Rosberg pushed back so he finished off the podium, was tossed around ion the days leading up to the race and Mercedes reportedly told their driver that if he tried to do that, they would call Rosberg into the pits and perform the undercut…meaning that Rosberg would come out on track after his stop ahead of Hamilton. However, Hamilton didn’t begin his slowing tactic until all the stops were said and done, leaving the team with their hands completely tied.
Now, with the winner’s champagne still cold, the British papers are claiming that Hamilton could be suspended or even sacked from the team for deliberately disobeying their wishes. The Daily Mirror claims that ‘Lewis Hamilton is facing the sack by Mercedes after being accused of causing anarchy in Abu Dhabi. Hamilton’s contract runs out in 2018 but that would not stop the German car giant ending it early or suspending him from races next season as a punishment.’
Meanwhile, the Guardian is claiming suspension would be the most likely outcome….
“Mercedes are considering disciplinary action, which could mean a fine or even suspension, against Lewis Hamilton after the three-time world champion twice flouted instructions as his teammate, Nico Rosberg, won his maiden Formula One world championship on Sunday.”
The main problem with the situation was that Mercedes were worried that Lewis would slow down too much and allow Ferrari or Red Bull through for the victory when it was quite obvious that the German marque were more than capable of securing yet another one two finish.
Mercedes themselves are not sure what they will do with the driver that has brought them so much success, especially as in the end he did win the race and Rosberg did bring it home to complete yet another one two finish.
“We need to look at the overall situation and say what does it mean?” team boss Wolff said. “Everything is possible, from let’s change the rules for next year because it doesn’t work in those critical races, to maybe we want to give them even more freedom in racing each other. Or we could go to the more harsh side that we feel the values were not respected. This is 180 degrees, and I’m not sure yet where the needle is going to go.”
“One half of me says with 1,500 people at Brackley/Brixworth, and 300,000 at Daimler, that creates values and you have to respect those values. Undermining a structure in public means you’re putting yourself before the team – that’s very simple. Anarchy doesn’t work in any team or any company.”
“The other half says it was his only chance of winning the championship at that stage and maybe you cannot demand a racing driver that is one of, if not the best out there, a real guard dog in the car, to comply in a situation where his instincts did not make him comply. It’s about finding a solution to solve the problem in the future because a precedent has been set. Let me sleep over that and come up with a solution.”
What Lewis did was completely within the rules so therefore the FIA wont hand down any form of punishment, but Mercedes is of the opineion that they have done everything in their power to allow their two drivers to race and fight it out on track, in a fair manner, and to them, Lewis’s tactic wasn’t following those values….
“It’s not an easy one. All throughout these last three years we’ve really tried to create an environment, and creating values in the team. One of the reasons is the individuals that are in charge of this team and the drivers are very much part of it and they bought into these values,” Wolff added. “You cannot invent a rule for every single situation”
“ This is motor racing, it would make it the most boring sport ever if you would have corporate solution for every single situation. We saw a highly entertaining race, with lots of controversy to talk about, lots to write about it. Isn’t that at the end of the day what we want to achieve? The tricky bit here is what does it mean for the future of the team and how can we progress and not be over corporate and boring – but allow them to race.”
“It wasn’t acknowledged that we have let them race over the last three years. We could have had a much smoother run and decided either you are going to win or you are going to win. This is how it happened in Red Bull and Ferrari many years ago, and maybe in other teams. I’m not sure we are in the credit-taking business, because it needs headlines, but we have coped quite well with that situation the last three years.”