The season finale in Abu Dhabi was a challenging race for 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg but no one could have imagined that it would be his last. The retirement announcement caught the world off guard and was a tsunami that overwhelmed the then current rhetoric about Lewis Hamilton’s tactics as well as the team’s radio messages to him regarding his pace.
The world was discussing the fairness and sportsmanship of Hamilton’s tactics while leading the race and backing up his teammate, in second place, into the claws of Sebastian Vettel’s charging Ferrari. The Mercedes team radioed Hamilton a few times asking him to pick up the pace and giving him team orders to comply, which he didn’t.
In the endless noise of opinion and debate laced with bias and all the nuance of mobocracy on social media, a two-ton heavy thing splashed down on the narrative and promptly sent shockwaves across the F1 world—Nico Rosberg will retire from Formula 1.
It’s been over a week since the announcement and most of the rhetoric concerning Hamilton’s driving and the team’s orders have now been replaced with speculation—some insightful but most of it coarse and not very well refined—on who Mercedes will choose to replace Rosberg.
In the endless prognostication, there came the sound of repentance, if not reconciliation, that could be a reaction to only having one driver the team need worry about sans Rosberg. The team had questioned Hamilton’s tactics in Abu Dhabi and they had scrunched noses over his defiance to comply to team orders from Technical Director Paddy Lowe.
It seems that they have now, for reasons that seem much more obvious without Rosberg, that they have measured their role in the matter and found them wanting. Team boss Toto Wolff told Sky Sports F1:
“In the heat of the moment, sometimes when you make decisions you get them wrong,” said Wolff in an interview with Sky Sports F1.
“In our mind, the way we think, this race is giving us the same number of points as other races and we try to win that one, not considering that there was much more at stake for the drivers.
“How the race panned out, we should have communicated differently and in hindsight let them race in the way they deemed to be appropriate.”
Perhaps more to the point, they have a somewhat perplexed 3-time champion who experienced more technical failures during the season than the other driver and he has a personal social media following bigger than the team he drives for. The dash to find a replacement for the hottest seat in F1 is difficult enough without Lewis fully on board and happy that he is now forgiven and even justified for his actions and disobedience to team orders. In fact, it seems important now that Hamilton feels he is number one at the team and has a big impact on the driver the team selects as his teammate as the dynamics will have to work for Lewis:
“He has been a great pillar in the team’s success
“When he came, everything changed, so he has played a role.
“It’s very important to keep him in a good place.
“The dynamics between the two drivers is one of the factors we will consider.”
It has been an interesting week that started with possible punitive action against Lewis but morphed into a casting off of any innuendo or possibility of wrongdoing. If rumors of Hamilton’s threat to walk out on the team after the Spanish Grand Prix are true, then they may feel that they could lose two drivers instead of one if Hamilton isn’t “in a good place”.
Who will Mercedes pick? That’s anyone’s guess but whomever it is, they will find Lewis at the team in repose with his feet on the desk.
Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1