Mercedes make ‘team order’ rule clear as mud

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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