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The Hungarian Grand Prix must be a bittersweet event for Red Bull Racing and is undoubtedly a thorn in Christian Horner’s side. His young, charismatic and obviously talented driver beat the immense odds and flew to a victory over the Silver Arrows juggernaut and a 2 time World Champion – in Alonso – at a track where it is immensely difficult to overtake and yet what was everybody talking about around the Monday morning water cooler? Ignored orders at Mercedes by a certain driver desperate to cement his place in the F1 annals of history by fulfilling his potential as a multiple World Champion. So much for focusing on the positive instead of the controversial eh Christian?
Let’s be clear, Mercedes duffed the weekend in every possible way imaginable. A Power Unit fire that cost Hamilton any chance in qualifying and a PU that he might or might not need later in the season. Blown strategy calls that might have cost at least one if not both their drivers a crack at the race win and finally the episode created bitter feelings between themselves and their drivers. But the facts are already ancient history, what’s left to analyse is why did this happen in the first place and what can be done about it because whether you are a fan of Mercedes or not, it is obvious to everyone that any weekend where Mercedes is not at least 1st and probably 2nd is frankly a failure on their part and that the goals now need to be seen in a different light and even elevated from where they are now.
Many questions arose after the race such as why did Mercedes choose for Hamilton to go on Primes for a long final stint if the Option tires last the same distance and are substantially faster? For that matter, why did they even choose to do a long run when they had 3 sets of brand new Softs and their competitors only 2?
We won’t bother talking about whether Hamilton should have been asked to move over because although the majority feel that he should not have been, it is still a matter of debate. Rather we’ll ask, if Hamilton said that he would move over if Nico could catch him, why didn’t MB tell this to Nico and or just instruct him to push to pass?
Who is really making the calls on the race wall?
Once the race was over why is one Team Leader (Lauda) saying that Hamilton should not have been asked to move over and that Mercedes panicked and the other (Wolff) making subtle and convoluted statements that Lewis cost Nico the win by not following orders but that they cannot make a big deal about since they have been letting Lewis down even though he also says that the feelings should not be in consideration on race strategy?
These questions lead us to believe that the management and strategists at Mercedes were either making badly thought out decisions to make up for badly thought out decisions or are unclear about which shade of grey they are supposed to be in on how to balance team vs driver ambitions.
We are now more than halfway through the season and it is a reasonable notion that Mercedes has the World Championship wrapped up. Barring a catastrophic collapse it is difficult, even for the most optimistic participant outside of the Silver Arrows team, to think that it is possible for them to catch up. This presents the German team with an unique opportunity. What they have been given is a get out of jail free card, they can manage the races any way they want (competently of course). The goal therefore should not be only to win the races, but to win with panache.
If there is a debate internally at Mercedes, there shouldn’t be any longer. What is being proposed here is simple, no team orders, no maximizing points, each driver’s strategy is to go the for the win AT ALL COSTS and let the chips fall where they may. Yes, there might be a race or two where the team goals are compromised or the driver’s crash into each other but this is where the get out of jail card comes in. What does Mercedes get in return?
The World Constructors Championship and Driver’s Championship that they desire and deserve but they will also get the goodwill from both their drivers knowing that they were truly left to fight, especially when team orders to maximize points for the WCC holds absolutely no water anymore. After all, both Nico and Lewis might potentially be a pair for longer than next season and if they feel that they don’t have to manage their relationship with their driver’s simply because they currently have the fastest car, they are kidding themselves.
Most of all Mercedes gets the reputation for being the ultimate race team from a thankful fanbase who were allowed to watch the most compelling story of the 2014 season unfold as it should, free of any hint of manipulation and questionable strategy as now there is only black or white for both their drivers and sides of the garage.
Just win baby, win.