Team unim­pressed by Lewis Hamil­ton’s

Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Stephen Lick­o­r­ish Pho­tos: LAT

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamil­ton un­der­mined the team by ig­nor­ing or­ders to in­crease his pace in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and has yet to de­cide if the team will adopt a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to let­ting its driv­ers race each other next year.

The Brit was back­ing team-mate Nico Ros­berg into the rest of the pack in the clos­ing stages of the race in his at­tempts to claim a fourth ti­tle. But with Se­bas­tian Vet­tel clos­ing fast on newer su­per­soft tyres, Hamil­ton was in­structed to in­crease his pace to en­sure Mercedes won the race.

He de­fied the or­ders, which later came from tech­ni­cal boss Paddy Lowe, say­ing “let us race”. In the end his plan didn’t work with Ros­berg able to stay ahead of Vet­tel and Max Ver­stap­pen with sec­ond enough for the Ger­man to clinch his first ti­tle.

Fu­ture changes

Wolff said the team may change its strat­egy in the fu­ture be­cause of the way Hamil­ton acted, but that he had yet to make up his mind.

“Un­der­min­ing a struc­ture in pub­lic means you’re putting your­self be­fore the team – that’s very sim­ple,” he said. “An­ar­chy doesn’t work in any team or any com­pany.”

But he added that he could un­der­stand why Hamil­ton ig­nored the or­ders. “The other half says it was his only chance of win­ning the cham­pi­onship at that stage and maybe you can­not de­mand a rac­ing driver that is one of if not the best out there, a real guard dog in the car, to com­ply in a sit­u­a­tion where his in­stincts did not make him com­ply,” he said. “It’s about find­ing a so­lu­tion to solve the prob­lem in the fu­ture be­cause a prece­dent has been set.

“Ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble, from let’s change the rules for next year be­cause it doesn’t work in those crit­i­cal races. Maybe we want to give them even more free­dom in rac­ing each other, or we could go to the more harsh side that we feel the val­ues were not re­spected. This is 180 de­grees and I’m not sure yet where my fin­ger is go­ing to point – where the nee­dle is go­ing to go.

“The sec­ond ques­tion, of con­se­quences, this is some­thing I will keep in­ter­nal. I need to form an opin­ion which I haven’t yet.”

Wolff de­fends Merc

Wolff de­fended the de­ci­sion to is­sue the in­struc­tions to Hamil­ton, be­liev­ing Vet­tel posed a gen­uine threat to a Mercedes vic­tory.

“There were two mo­ments in the race when there was a risk that we would be los­ing the race [Ver­stap­pen’s dif­fer­ent strat­egy and Vet­tel]. Our num­ber one prin­ci­ple for the past three years – and this doesn’t mat­ter if it’s the first race or the last – is to se­cure the win. You can ques­tion that, whether it’s the right prin­ci­ple go­ing for­ward, but that’s ex­actly what we did on the pit­wall – there were these two mo­ments and this is why we asked him to in­crease the pace.

“As we let them race for the last three years, the team de­serves credit for that, not de­cid­ing to have a num­ber one or a num­ber two be­cause that’s the eas­i­est so­lu­tion. It was clear that we would only in­ter­fere if our num­ber one ob­jec­tive of win­ning the race was un­der threat.”

Lowe added: “We had some frus­tra­tions, we’d rather have some gap to con­trol it to mit­i­gate against any pos­si­ble risks. It [Lowe’s mes­sage] was more like just to make it to­tally clear to him there was no b******* to that point. There was a proper threat from Vet­tel, so that he could re­spond if he was able. That was it re­ally.”

But just a day ear­lier, the team said it wouldn’t in­ter­fere with Ros­berg and Hamil­ton’s bat­tle for the ti­tle.

“We can’t re­ally in­ter­fere in the fi­nal race, we have let them race un­til now,” Wolff said af­ter qual­i­fy­ing. “We need to let them go. It would cause a lot of con­tro­versy and there­fore I trust this is go­ing to go well to­mor­row for the ben­e­fit of the team, the team spirit, and the ef­fort it has been given, and the fans.”

Hamil­ton de­fi­ant

Hamil­ton said he wasn’t sur­prised the team spoke to him on the ra­dio, and didn’t let it al­ter his mind­set.

“We’re out there to race and the team had won the con­struc­tors’ ti­tle,” said Hamil­ton. “At that time we’re rac­ing; what was I go­ing to do, just sit there and let the dude go and win the cham­pi­onship? I had to try to help my­self, be­cause no one else was go­ing to.”

Red Bull team boss Chris­tian Horner de­fended Hamil­ton’s ap­proach to the race and said Mercedes was “naive” to ex­pect him to do any­thing else.

Horner said: “He didn’t do any­thing dirty, he didn’t do any­thing against the rules and I think it would be un­fair to crit­i­cise Lewis for the way that he drove, it was ob­vi­ous com­ing into the week­end that that was his only chance of achiev­ing the re­sult that he wanted.

“It was only ever go­ing to be that kind of bat­tle be­tween the two of them. Con­grat­u­la­tions to Nico, he’s driven a great sea­son this year, he’s a very wor­thy world cham­pion but it was naive to think that there would be any dif­fer­ent ap­proach to this race with what’s at stake.”

Ros­berg (r) came un­der at­tack from Vet­tel af­ter Hamil­ton slowed

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