In Hungary, it was a noble, sportsmanlike effort from Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for the masterful execution of team orders to allow Lewis to attempt a pass, and upon not succeeding, return the position to Valtteri.
Fans cheered and tweeted in glorious mobocracy cacophony, flowers rained down on the act and tears of joy were only momentarily interrupted by a scornful glance toward Ferrari who didn’t initiate team orders and allow Kimi Raikkonen past Sebastian Vettel. The mob couldn’t believe Ferrari would be so crass as to not allow a faster Kimi by and used the paladin-like example of Mercedes as proof on how Formula 1 should be ran and how teams should operate.
Four weeks later and Mercedes are admitting that team orders and favoring Lewis really might be the only option and the three points he lost by ceding the position back to Valtteri is a bit of an issue—which is exactly what I said in the Hungarian race review and was vilified for daring to swim against the mob and peerless Mercedes. I’ve nothing at all against Mercedes, it’s a great team and fabulous people and I understand why they did what they did and yes, it was a collegial move, but I am more concerned about their title effort with Lewis Hamilton and felt that it could—I reiterate, could—cost him a championship if they continue this theme. I think Mercedes agrees with me even after basking in the praise of their magnanimous move in Hungary.
Just four weeks later, the press are back at it—after fawning over the incredibly sportsmanlike move in Hungary—with a jaundiced eye toward Ferrari with hints and allegations that the team may be favoring Sebastian Vettel in the title chase. You think? He has nearly 100 more points than Kimi and you’re wondering if Ferrari will look to maximize Vettel’s strategy and race performance? It’s the same reason they didn’t order Vettel to let Raikkonen pass him in Hungary.
The entire line of questioning put Vettel slightly on the defensive and towing the party line about no favoritism and in this day and age, I find the dog-eared notion of questioning team leaders and favoring a driver’s chances given their position in the title chase after mid-season simply nonsensical. Sebastian said:
“I am a bit surprised by the way things are put,” said Vettel.
“I can’t speak for other people, but Kimi and myself were racing each other the whole year.
“I read or heard after Hungarian GP that he was protecting me. If you speak to him, he’ll make it pretty clear.
“I don’t think he was leaving anything behind, if he had opportunity properly to pass me he would have tried, and that is fair enough.
“It would have been same the other way around – we’re racing for the team, we’re both trying to do our best.
“I don’t know what other teams are doing, but for us we both go flat out, and then see what happens.”
I’ve nothing at all against the article’s author, Adam Cooper, as I’ve met him and he’s a perfectly delightful guy just reporting what was said about a question in the press conference ahead of this week’s Italian Grand Prix. I don’t question Adam, I question those who still feel team orders are a scourge on the series and feel that Kimi, 100 points down, should be allowed to pass Vettel if he’s quick or that Lewis should give a spot back to Valtteri even though the Fin isn’t his main competitor like the three previous years with only the two Mercedes drivers battling for the title.
Mercedes isn’t battling Mercedes with all other teams in their dust, they are battling Ferrari and have to take each point seriously and right now—even in Hungary—Lewis is your work horse. He’s the guy who can get it done. Nothing untoward about Valtteri but if he were leading the title chase into the second half of the season, I would be saying the same for him…same is true of Kimi.
Mercedes is a top-shelf team and they know this much better than I do. They are proven winners and they will make the right moves but should they do so, I am sure the mobocracy will be there to collectively scratch its head and ignore it…until Ferrari does it and then it’s a blemish on the series and something will have to be done to stop team orders…except for the noble, sportsmanlike versions of it, of course.
Hat Tip: Autosport