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Sports­man­ship makes us win­ners, says Mercedes boss

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MERCEDES recog­nised that an act of sport­ing sac­ri­fice in Hun­gary on Sun­day could ul­ti­mately cost Lewis Hamil­ton a fourth For­mula One ti­tle but said it was a price they were pre­pared to pay.

“It cost us three points and po­ten­tially the cham­pi­onship and we are per­fectly con­scious about that,” team boss Toto Wolff said af­ter Hamil­ton slowed on the fi­nal lap to let team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas take third place as part of an ear­lier agree­ment.

“Nev­er­the­less this is how the drivers and team op­er­ate,” added the Aus­trian, whose team have won the past three drivers’ and con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onships.

“We stick to what we say and if the con­se­quences are as much as los­ing the cham­pi­onship, we take it.

“But long term we will be win­ning much more races and cham­pi­onships with that ap­proach than do­ing it the other way around.”

Bot­tas had agreed to let the faster Hamil­ton through to chase the lead­ing Fer­raris, on the un­der­stand­ing that the po­si­tions would be re­versed again if un­suc­cess­ful.

The Bri­ton duly kept his word, even if oth­ers might not have done with so much at stake, and fell 14 points be­hind Fer­rari’s cham­pi­onship leader and race win­ner Se­bas­tian Vet­tel.

For­mula One his­tory has count­less ex­am­ples of teams forc­ing drivers to obey or­ders but usu­ally with one dom­i­nant player ben­e­fit­ing.

Fer­rari, dur­ing the Michael Schu­macher era of dom­i­nance, were famed for favour­ing the Ger­man at the ex­pense of his team­mates, even when they were de­servedly lead­ing with no other ri­vals to worry about.

They have con­tin­ued with that ap­proach in re­cent years, with Kimi Raikko­nen clearly un­happy at be­ing kept be­hind his slower team­mate on Sun­day.

It is rare in­deed for a star driver in a tight bat­tle for the cham­pi­onship, and whose team mate is be­hind in the stand­ings, to give up points that could make or break his chances with­out af­fect­ing the con­struc­tor’s tally.

Wolff said he would be the first to “shoot my­self in the knee” if the cham­pi­onship ul­ti­mately hinged on those three points but he added that Mercedes had a big­ger pic­ture in mind.

“We drive in cir­cles be­cause we hope that it pro­motes our brand and makes us sell cars and it’s a very long-term project,” he said.

“And we’ve seen the back­lash of de­ci­sions that were ruth­less and cold-blooded and the ef­fect it had on the brand. Now you say ‘Screw it, it still won them the cham­pi­onship. Who cares? They are down in the his­tory books’.

“But I don’t think this is the right spin. If I come back to what I think the pur­pose of us be­ing here is, it is do­ing the right things and win­ning in the right way. And some­times do­ing it the right way and stand­ing by your val­ues is tough.

“It was to­day, be­lieve me.”

AFP PIC

Valt­teri Bot­tas heads for the fin­ish line af­ter be­ing given way by team­mate Lewis Hamil­ton at the Hun­gary Grand Prix on Sun­day.

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