Hamilton defends ‘dirty tricks’; the asterisk talk begins

In 2008, very few people, if any, suggested that Lewis Hamilton won the Driver’s Championship purely because Felipe Massa had three DNF’s compared to his one. No one claimed there should be an asterisk beside his name for that season’s title. In 2015, no one argued that Nico Rosberg’s two DNF’s were at all granular to Lewis’s title run.

In 2016, Lewis’s two DNF’s to Nico’s one—along with mechanical issues in qualifying, but not his poor starts—are being used as justification by Hamilton fans of not only an asterisk besides Rosberg’s name, but downright conspiracy theories implicating the team as being intent on thwarting Hamilton’s fourth world title. Lewis even dog-whistled as much in the Abu Dhabi post-race press conference saying the team radioed him to pick up the pace and they had a clear thought process as to why they were doing that and not just letting them race.

Reading Twitter and the outrageous commentary by #TeamLH, it has become clear that the mobocracy is in full meltdown over Nico Rosberg’s 2016 championship and feel that it was Hamilton’s had he not had the DNF’s and the team working against him.

This all started over the weekend when Lewis suggested, once again, that the changes the team made with the mechanics and engineers swapping sides of the garage was possibly a bigger issue than just moving team members around to keep parity amongst the employees. He said we’d all have to read about it in his book when he writes it ten years from now.

It also emerged that Lewis had threatened to quit Mercedes after the Spanish Grand Prix debacle that saw he and teammate Rosberg collide and retire from the race. According to Sky Sports F1, Lewis had a meltdown and threatened to walk away and this is why the team very quickly brought Pascal Wehrlein in for the testing session that immediately followed Spain as they were concerned they’d need him to sit in for Lewis for the balance of the season.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a case of simply controlling the pace, backing Nico Rosberg up into the clutches of Red Bull and Ferrari in order to shake Nico off the podium—which is exactly what Lewis needed in order to win the title. You could argue that this exactly what he needed to do and it is his right to dictate the pace but it was also clear that Sebastian Vettel thought little of the strategy calling them “dirty tricks” and in the end, the German wasn’t going to make any lunges down the inside and spoil what he felt was rightfully Nico’s title. He even said there were a few moments he may have tried it but Lewis was too close.

In the end, Lewis Hamilton said he did nothing wrong:

“I don’t think I did anything dangerous, I don’t think I did anything unfair,” said Hamilton. “We were fighting for the championship, I was in the lead so I control the pace. That is the rules.”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff didn’t see it exactly the same way saying:

“I’m in two minds: one half of me says undermining a structure in public means you’re putting yourself before the team – that’s very simple,” said Wolff after the race.

“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 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 tomorrow.”

Clearly Toto’s face immediately after the race was not one of sheer joy for Nico’s title win and Lewis’s race win. He was not a happy boss and his comments reveal that he expects drivers to comply with team instruction.

What is, perhaps, more perplexing is that given Lewis’s personality and style, was Mercedes living in a dream to think that Hamilton wouldn’t back Rosberg up into traffic? Red Bull’s Christian Horner thinks so:

“With where they were at, it was just down to those guys, so it was only ever going to be that kind of battle between the two of them,” said Horner.

“Congratulations to Nico, he’s driven a great season, he’s a very worthy world champion but it was naive to think that there would be any different approach with what’s at stake.”

That’s not the case, according to Toto Wolff, who said they anticipated it:

“It was clear that it was one of the possible ways for Lewis to win the championship, if Nico could come under threat from behind, and that’s exactly what happened so it didn’t come as a surprise.

“We weren’t quite sure which direction he’d go, whether he’d go flat out, or chose the other way. But we calculated it.”

Perhaps Nico Rosberg said it best when he explained in the post-race press conference that it is clear to see both sides of the issue. The team has its perspective and Lewis has his perspective of the race. The point being that the team are not engaged in allowing Nico to be sacrificed to Ferraris and Red Bulls to tip the points lead back in favor of Lewis Hamilton winning the title by orphaning Nico to 4th place or worse. For Lewis, that’s exactly what he needed to happen and he was trying everything he could, including ignoring team instruction, to make it happen.

Backing your teammate up into the claws of competitors is within the rules but ignoring Mercedes team instruction may not be in the Mercedes AMG Petronas rule book. It will be interesting to see if anything is said publicly from the team regarding Lewis’s refusal to obey team instruction.

Regardless, Nico Rosberg is not an unworthy or asterisk champion just because Lewis had one more DNF and some mechanical issues earlier this season. The series of poor starts seems to remain out of the conversation when arguing for an asterisk next to Nico’s name. It was an extra DNF that allowed Lewis to win his first title and it was an extra DNF to cost him this season’s title. That’s Formula 1 and that’s all part of the season.

Sebastian Vettel said:

“I think in my point of view you don’t win a championship by luck, Nico won today and he is a deserved champion,” Vettel added.

“Sometimes you might have unfortunate or fortunate situations with your car, but sometimes you have better years or worse years, and it is Nico’s day – we owe it to him as a deserved champion.”

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT and AUTOSPORT

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Johnpierre Rivera

I am so glad that you have put this post up so quickly…. Shame on Lewis for the dirty play. I have been a big booster of Lewis in his new guise at Mercedes, but day he has varnished his championship shine in my opinion… And as for the the engine failures you and Vettel hit the nail right on the head. engines where not Lewis issue, starts were… Rosberg is the deserving champ and sadly Hamilton has reminded us (again) why while he is one of the best drivers in the history of the sport and generally faster Rosberg… Read more »

Salvu Borg

and also being one of the most disliked drivers in F1.

Samouri

Being disliked by other fellow F1 drivers is nothing new for Lewis, because he had experienced that same kind of animosity by some going back to his karting days.

Samouri

Let’s be perfectly clear. Engine failure was the main reason for Hamilton’s loss of the 2016 WDC, and not his starts. Lewis no question lost many points this season due to his poor performance during the start of several races. Engine failures were the main culprit though, especially that engine failure at Malaysia. Lewis was comfortably leading that race with only 16 laps to go, and on towards an easy victory, when his engine decided to call it a day. Without that failure, and a Lewis win at Malaysia. Rosberg would have gone into the last race at Abu Dahbi… Read more »

Andreas

Christian Horner is of course right – Lewis’ only chance was to win the race, and to do it as slowly as possible, giving the others a chance to get in front of Nico. It was a longshot, given the Merc pace shown over the season, but it was his only chance. And expecting him to do anything else was never going to be anything but wishful thinking on Toto’s part. They are racing drivers, after all. And human beings, not robots… so I don’t blame Lewis for using the tools available to him (within reason – I don’t condone… Read more »

Fred Talmadge

It was an act of desperation that many in the field would probably do as well. That don’t make it right. Admit to it, congradulate your team mate and thank the team for a great effort all year. Now go on to your playboy life style and get ready for next year.

Johnpierre Rivera

exactly…

Michael

Well said! The first, and likely last, well balanced and thoughtful article regarding the self induced Hamilton saga.

Royce Amatique

I didn’t see the race so I’m speaking from ignorance here, but I don’t see anything wrong with the tactic of backing Rosberg up, because Hamilton would have to have put himself at risk of Rosberg overtaking him by doing it.

Gram

There’s nothing wrong with it. However, we are talking about Hamilton here. These guys are always on a witch hunt when it comes to Hamilton. Apparently, its dirty to control race pace and hope your main title rival loses points. Who knew?

Andreas

I have to ask – who are “these guys” you talk about? If you’re referring to FBC or Todd in particular, you need to go back and read the op-ed again. And do take special care to note where quotation marks are used. The term “dirty tricks” is a quote, not an opinion. It was Sebastian Vettel who talked about “dirty tricks” (most likely in tounge-in-cheek fashion, knowing that he would probably have done exactly the same thing, in the same situation). I can’t see Todd himself saying anything other than that Lewis was fully entitled to do what he… Read more »

mini696

I don’t see how anyone can complain about what Lewis did. Mercedes couldn’t lose, and if you don’t do everything to try to win the championship you didn’t try at all.

His spoiled child syndrome on the other hand…

Max Johnson

Mercedes has said they will allow the drivers to race, it was unfair to Lewis to radio him in the middle of the race and gave him team order.

The only asterisk I want to add is that Nico never passed Lewis competitively on track during the season, as far as I recall.

Negative Camber

If Mechanical failure or other competitors were your only hope, then backing your rival back into the claws of competitors is the option he chose (so would I as Mercedes hasn’t had consistent failures) and it nearly worked for one position but even if Seb got past, I’m not sure Max had the tires to do it. One could argue that the way these cars work when in the wash of a leading car makes the strategy even more difficult. Regardless, he did what he had to do…win the race and try to dislodge his rival from the podium. It… Read more »

xorpheous

It was indeed a situation where the driver and team were as oppositely positioned as possible. There was no way that Mercedes wanted Lewis to endanger their 1-2 finish in the season finale, but there was no way that Lewis was going to cede the championship when there was still a possibility, albeit not a probability, of his winning the title. Both sides were strongly motivated to their respective positions and there is no way that one was going to move the other from their position. There’s no way that one should expect them to move. Lewis did what he… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

“It was indeed a situation where the driver and team were as oppositely positioned as possible.” Except, as I said above, Merc pays Lewis to drive, Lewis does not pay Merc to supply him with a car. So they’re in opposite, but not at all equivalent, positions. Lewis is simply wrong and if this were last year, I’d just fire him and save myself 50 million euros because my car is going to win the championship with Susie Wolff in it so who cares. But I have no idea how good Merc feel about the 2017 car, maybe they need… Read more »

MIE

Hamilton passed Rosberg only twice this year (Monaco where Rosberg obeyed a team instruction to let Hamilton pass, and Austria after the two collided on the last lap). I don’t think we can use the lack of wheel to wheel racing to determine who is the more deserving champion.

Gram

Oh yes we can! See last 4 races. Rosberg collected 2nds happily even though he had every opportunity to take the fight to Hamilton. If it wasn’t for Red Bull’s mistake’s he probably would have come home 3rd a couple of times. To be fair to him, that’s all he needed to win the title. And that’s also the same reason people question him as a racer. But he is a good driver no doubt about that. Now let me flip it back to you: How many times in their three years together fighting for the title has Rosberg ever… Read more »

MIE

The championship is over one season. All Rosberg had to do in the last races of this season was follow Hamilton home. Why risk the championship? It encourages processional races, but drivers race to the current rules. Hamilton is probably still better at wheel to wheel racing, but the limited times the two Mercedes have been close to each other this season there handed contact. However that doesn’t make him the champion. If anything having a world champion as a team mate should answer those critics who said Hamilton’s last two championships were only there because he had a dominant… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

I agree it was less exciting to watch Rosberg happily accept the 2nds he needed to become champion, but watching him race, qualify and pass (Verstappen!) over the last few races any time he needed to in order to protect those second places showed me that he’s every bit as capable and fast as he needs to be, he’s just a more measured racer in style. The truth is Rosberg knows what everyone except you and the BBC seem to realize – that Lewis Hamilton is a filthy soul and would do anything up to and including smashing Rosberg out… Read more »

Gram

What’s the point of this article: 1. To bully any Hamilton supporter whose opinion does not match Todd’s. 2. To create a false perception of who Hamilton is inside and outside the car. Notice the use of the word “Dirty”. Please explain to me what is “dirty” about the race leader controlling the pace of the race? 3. Damage control on Rosberg’s worth as World Champion. It’s very obvious that many journalist are uncomfortable that some fans are willing to acknowledge that Rosberg is the 2016 Champion but view it as Champion by “default” as he did not fight for… Read more »

yoshif8tures

Todd nailed it with this piece.
Maybe you’d fit in better over at the Mercedes facebook page instead of here or go start your own blog.

Gram

What’s the matter? you can’t stomach the fact that you’re being fed false garbage?

yoshif8tures

You’re entitled to your opinion, but in my opinion you’re wrong and Todd is right.
Nico deserved this title and I’m glad Lewis lost it.

Gram

This is what it all comes down to. There is a huge fan base of Hamilton haters that will support anyone that can beat him. You’re motivated more by what you hate rather than what you support. Which is why support for Rosberg is always up and down. One weekend he is the greatest, next weekend he is a chump.

Royce Amatique

I had to re-read this article because I don’t actually understand how you think Todd is bashing Hamilton at all. I still don’t.

I haven’t commented on this site for many years but I recall there being something about decorum and civility, is that still in effect?

jakobusvdl

It sure is, Gram are you listening?????????

Negative Camber

Indeed…i’ve said that if I were Lewis, I would have backed Nico up too. The bigger question is the internal team dynamic and disregard for team instruction but that’s Merc’s issue, not mine. I am not sure what they have in place and to be fair, I doubt anyone on the outside does. IF Lewis nearly walked out of Merc earlier this season, things may not be that good internally and one could be forgiven for wondering if the relationship will survive this team instruction order. I’ve said it many times, Lewis is here to win, not play wet nurse… Read more »

Haggis

Please children…grown ups are talking with the other mature adults. Move on and quit attacking Todd. If you disagree then you disagree, but this trash talk is completely unnecessary.

Johnpierre Rivera

@ Gram have you taken a chance to give the comments sections a look over at James Allen’s site in regards to the final race and in particular the last 10 laps or so of the finale race? I have, all 575 of them and still counting. whether you agree with Todd (or myself – I happen to share Todd’s view and btw I have contributed many articles praising Lewis an this site) the break down of the comments about this very subject are about the same. Many people saw how Hamilton slowed down as not becoming of their idea… Read more »

Gram

I don’t read James Allen because his website is heavily edited. If you say something that does follow the narative, your commend will not be posted, even if you don’t use foul language or disrespect other commentators. James is an F1 insider and very much wants to keep his insider access privileges. Hence why his site is so vanilla and heavily edited because his staff controls the narative to stick in line with the F1 mainstream press while trying to presenting it as Independent. If Todd is trying to present the case that Rosberg is a deserving Champion, he can… Read more »

Johnpierre Rivera

Well if you don’t read JA of late then how have you come to the conclusion that it is vanilla? maybe you should give it a read, the comments are definitely not for the faint of heart and I often wonder how the sites moderator/s allows them to be posted, but is not so much the point. Sure some of the people just want to have a feel good time, but if you filter out that then you get a pretty comprehensive look at what many well informed and sometimes overly aggressive fans think and have to say about F1.… Read more »

Johnpierre Rivera

ps Matthew makes a pretty good argument no???

Gram

Wow…you need help. That’s all I can say. Trying to correct your wicked interpretation of events would be a total waste of time.

Johnpierre Rivera

I would expect that kind of reply in light of the fact that it is so painfully obvious from the litany of points this other F1 fan makes in the case against Hamilton which you just can’t seem to accept… clearly you have a stead fast opinion and I nor Todd nor anyone else can change it. That is fine, but those facts are pretty convincing to me and I am a neutral Hamilton fan in general. I generally like him and all the jet setting and the way he drives driving people off or not. but what is good… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

I’m not going to say I always agree with Todd but one thing he is is fair and, when in doubt, gives the benefit to the racers rather than criticising them. I personally have a problem with attacking him on grounds of bias, I actually think fairness is the thing this site does best.

There’s talk about conspiracy because Lewis has created and encouraged that talk.

The Captain

“But when your response is to use your site as a platform to bully those people”

I don’t think you know what the word “bully” means.

Dr T

So – question for you then

Was Wehrlin looked over for Force India with the view to Mercedes in 2017 in place of Lewis???

TheFaust

Oh Baby, say its so, say its so! I would love to see it. Lewis could go to Nascar and race with the Bubbas.

Negative Camber

If I am correct in my Sky Sports F1 interpretation of Ted’s comments, that’s what the team were doing when they brought him in for the test that Lewis sat out of early this season.

yoshif8tures

It was a good race and the better man won in the end.
What interests me more is if itd been two different teams at the front fighting for the championship.

If it were Vettel or Max backing up Lewis instead or Lewis backing up Alonso etc.

I just think since they’re in the same team people don’t mind as much and if it wasn’t there’d be more of an outcry of dirty tricks to win it.