Is transparency helping or hurting Mercedes?

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If you’ve listened to our race review podcasts, you’ll know that Paul, Mark (Fake Charlie Whiting) and I have commented at length about the sharing of information between Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

The issue at hand is how much information is shared with the drivers regarding his teammates setup and current running specification. You may recall radio communication from Nico Rosberg asking what Lewis Hamilton’s brake bias is or other details that normally a driver would not know during a race in order to compensate.

As the battle between teammates becomes the only real battle left in F1 for the driver and constructor titles, it becomes even more of an issue amongst the team. We’ve commented that we believe the two sides of the Mercedes garage should run their race but that isn’t the feeling of Mercedes chief Toto Wolff who told AUTOSPORT:

“We just need to keep the transparency level where it is and not become in-transparent,” Wolff added.

“It’s clearly becoming very competitive, and the longer we go into the season the more competitive it’s going to get.

“Transparency is all about exchanging views and learning from each other.

“We have to look very carefully at it. We don’t want to keep the lap that shows how capable the car is until the final qualifying, because we need to understand where we can improve the car.

“I’m not saying this has happened, we just don’t want to see any sandbagging and aborted laps when we need to learn about the car.”

The team seems to believe that complete transparency between each side of the garage is the rule they feel works best. Lewis or Nico should know the exact setup and specification his teammate is using. It is difficult to get an edge over your closest rival if you have to give them your play book every lap.

Does this methodology work best for the team? Perhaps it does but it isn’t doing much for Lewis Hamilton at the moment when his every advantage is being read by his closest competitor and current championship leader.

Being of one mind is a novel concept and a team who seeks unity in effort can do big things but this year isn’t about thwarting off a fierce attack from Red Bull or Ferrari, it is about Lewis vs Nico and the open, free exchange of information seems to be neutralizing the efforts either driver makes to get a leg up on his close rival.

Mercedes may be anchored in the theory of transparency at the moment and they may suggest that their team is one mind but then Wolff admits that there may be a time that could change:

“The drivers’ main agenda is winning the drivers’ championship; our agenda is about winning the constructors’ championship and making sure one of the drivers wins the drivers’ championship, so maybe first we need to win the constructors’ championship and then we can unleash them.”

Now, color me reactionary but if the rule of transparency is demanded in a team and then at some point it can be thrown out the window, this is a culture ripe for corruption or frustration. When laws are only applicable given certain contextual relevancy, then they become a gray area and can be fudged, nudged and ignored.

This is a slippery slope and one that could cost Lewis Hamilton dearly in his bid for a second championship. Lewis isn’t interested in being leashed until such time as the team secures their interests—then being “unleashed”. He’s there to win races and sharing his settings, race strategy and more is only tipping his hand in a high stakes game of F1.

For Nico’s part, he’s going to take advantage of the teams onerous position on transparency while the sun shines and harvest as much info on his main rival as he can while that side of the garage is compelled to give up its secrets. You can’t blame him for wanting to read his competitors playbook.

It is, however, not a one-way street so I don’t want to overplay Nico’s advantage here. Lewis has the same ability to read Nico’s playbook according to Toto Wolff. Is that the right thing to do in order to give either driver their own opportunity to make the most of their skills and efforts with their individual team in the garage?

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