#F1 Features: Mercedes AMG – The Formula One Punch and Judy Show

Brought to you by TheJudge13 reporter Adam Macdonald (@adamac39)

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the contemporary Punch and Judy Show featuring Niki Lauda, Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe, Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and a whole backing cast.  It’s the most entertaining puppet show that travels the world to amuse the indulged fans over an eight month season.

Punch and Judy


The fallout from Budapest was clear for all to see.  The civil war that is brewing amongst the ranks at Brackley is, in truth, something that will keep us glued to our screens for the rest of the year as punch and counter-punch ensues (if you’ll pardon the pun).  The public playing out of such a drama as team orders always stirs debate and brings out allegiances; with this battle being no different.

Whether you think Lewis Hamilton did the correct thing or not by not moving over to let Rosberg through is irrelevant to this debate, as loyalties seem to become painfully obvious in the wake of…. errr…. Multi 644 …or whatever it will become known as down the line.  The obvious lack of cohesion between the troops makes an all dominating team like Mercedes look silly and open to ridicule.

The lack of foresight to such an eventuality as we saw meant the team politics resemble something like a Punch and Judy show. Slapstick in their nature and a lack of order down to the core, we the adoring aficionados of the sport gaze on wondering what will happen to Mr Punch (played by the combination of Lauda and Wolff), Judy (Rosberg and Hamilton), the baby (a symbol for control, order and success) and the policeman (Ross Brawn).

It commences

The story so far has seen the monumental rise from a midfield team to the front of the grid, thanks to the careful guidance and meticulous planning of all involved.  Now ten races into a season where they have blown away the opposition, Mr Punch finds itself at a fork in the path of the journey.  How the trio manage this volatile situation is of paramount importance to ensure they receive the Stuttgart seal of approval; but the problem here is that Mr Punch is flawed.

The corporately driven Toto Wolff wants what is best for the team as a business not allowing emotion to cloud his vision, much.  Those who argue that he favours Nico Rosberg are neither supported or unsupported with this statement, as ‘what is best for the team’ could mean Rosberg winning or not.  One thing this viewpoint does not lend itself to is the teammates driving each other off the track, like a certain Red Bovine pair did in Turkey, in 2010.

One of the most respected racers of all-time for his courage, passion and persona, Niki Lauda is the complete opposite to Wolff.  The level of emotional investment he feels makes it hard for him to be impartial, such is the way he comments on the situation ‘the way he sees it.’  To my mind, one of the reasons he would seem to prefer Lewis Hamilton is quite a simple train of thought – he sees some of his own racing spirit and heart-on-sleeve personality in the Briton.

This then leaves Paddy Lowe in the middle of the two, aligned to a puppet (which works well with the analogy) as he is on a string between both the Austrians.  His softly softly approach means questions remain as to whether he indeed has authority within the setup.  His title within the team, Executive Director (Technical), allows for a less biased stance, with more of an interest to merely see the cars home in one piece.

On a side note, those who question Lowe’s impartialness due to his McLaren history with Hamilton I disagree with.  If anything, it makes him even more ‘fair’ as he seeks to treat each driver equally, as shown by his instructions to the pair in Bahrain.

The 'Mr Punch' trio of Lauda, Wolff and Lowe

The ‘Mr Punch’ trio of Lauda, Wolff and Lowe

The plot thickens

Now with an all-conquering car and both Championships seemingly wrapped up and heading in the direction of Mercedes AMG, the baby – the control – will become even more difficult to manage.  Judy (ROS/HAM) expects Mr Punch to care for the baby and ensure it stays safe, although surely this is an impossible outcome given the mixed views Mr Punch has.

In the performed puppet show, the baby is frequently dropped, sat on, hit or put through a sausage machine.  Hamilton and Rosberg have already shown they will rebel if given orders, demonstrated by Hamilton in Barcelona and Rosberg in Bahrain, using ‘illegal’ engine settings in both circumstances.  This latest rebellion is just another example in a series of internal disputes. Hamilton has been publicly ear-clipped by the Mercedes announcements that drivers will be forced to listen to team orders, although the storyline of the puppet show demonstrates this is a flawed route to follow.

It is naïve of Judy (ROS/HAM) to expect Mr Punch to be able to control the situation.  Back in Malaysia 2013 there was a policeman, Ross Brawn, to manage the situation ensuring it never spiraled out of control.  This policeman was not felled by Punch’s slapstick as in the puppet show, instead the law enforcement was squeezed out of the team, leaving a fundamentally lawless state.

Ross 'the policeman' Brawn always kept the team in check

Ross ‘the policeman’ Brawn always kept the team in check

The Ghost

In many versions of the slapstick course a ghost and/or devil appear towards the end of the sketch.  Mr Punch invariably chases away the devil or tricks the ghost into hanging itself, although in this real life version things would seem to be heading for a different outcome.  A race ending collision between the pair is being offered at 5/1 by bookmakers, as the coming together is seemingly inconceivable. However, with a lack of strong and decisive leadership at the top this looks to be ever more likely.

The show usually ends with applause from the audience when Mr Punch triumphs in chasing away the devil.  I, for one, will be the first to applaud if the situation is managed properly and there are not metaphorical fireworks before the end of the year (there definitely will be actual fireworks in Abu Dhabi – there always are).  However, I struggle to see how this is possible given the way the season is playing out.

The Curtain Call

To avoid a repeat of the puppet show we saw at the Hungaroring the rules must be laid down.  However, common sense must prevail given the enormity of the prize at stake in 3 months-time.  Can either driver really be expected to help the other as they do battle for the ultimate racing accolade, the Formula One World Championship?

The major flaw in this plan is to Mr Punch himself – common sense is not his strong point.  Lauda, Wolff and Lowe have some time to mull over their next step although the most telling event of the story so far was actually something that did not happen.  Christian Horner may have been the subject of ridicule after the Multi 21 affair, but at least he had the stones to come over the radio to Vettel – even if all he could muster was a plea bargain of “Come on Seb, this is silly.”

He may have lacked the authority of the Ross Brawn that day, but he cornered Vettel into a position of obey me or disobey me.  Hamilton was afforded ‘wiggle room’ when his defence of his right to keep the German behind unless Rosberg could get close enough to pass him showed the state of play.  The very fact the team later admitted part of the reason for not giving him a direct order to slow down was due to “feeling sorry for him” given the recent qualifying woes, shows emotion is clouding their judgement.

Consistency is the key to this affair.  Keep the stance constant and there will be no tears at the end.  If not, then unhappy campers will be made, dark clouds will form above and the pressure will heighten, ultimately resulting in the bubble bursting.

Get your popcorn ready folks – it’s going to be an amazing few months…

32 responses to “#F1 Features: Mercedes AMG – The Formula One Punch and Judy Show

  1. ^
    Short Version.

    Groucho Marx persuades a gullible German industrialist to let him and his two brothers take over the running of the magnate’s most expensive and prestigious enterprise, in which he has invested billions.

    This squeezes out the Hero who had patiently engineered the success of said enterprise.

    Groucho doubles as a commentator while Harpo messes about disastrously with the machinery and Chico’s management causes chaos.

    The Hero goes off fishing, none of the brothers understand how to make the machinery work, the staff start fighting amongst themselves and the following year the company collapses.

    A small man with a grey toupée arrives in a large, unmarked, black bus. He puts all the company’s assets into the back of it, gives Groucho $44 to persuade the German industrialist to sell him the lot for a pittance and drives off with it.

    The Hero goes to Italy, teaches the locals how to build a car that works and they all live happily ever after.

    That’s all, Folks!

    (What the hell is “impartialness” and “pressure will heighten to resulting in the bubble bursting” in anything remotely approaching English? Not even His Lordship’s Ron Dennis designed predictive text could come up with those. Did you have something in your eye?)

    • I love the Groucho brothers comparisons. Brilliant.

      English is a living thing. It changes over the years and expands in different directions. Different cultures will change it and as an English teacher told me recently, many people are having to re-learn English (in England) so as to communicate more effectively in foreign territories who are learning a different English to the Queen’s one.

      • Can’t stand people being picky about the English language. There is English, American English and Internet English. English isn’t ours anymore. We gave it to the world and they’re isn’t a right way anymore to use it. It’s about communication. If you communicate what was in your mind then it’s correct. The grammar police can suck a bag of lollypops

        • ^
          There’s certainly a right way for you to communicate the word “there” in all three lingual versions, without you confusing people into thinking that you mean “they are”. It’s called spelling (in all of them).

          Personally, I can’t stand people who try to cover up and dismiss their own inadequacies by claiming that communication of the right concept, rather than the wrong concept, of what’s actually in their minds doesn’t matter.

          It’s usually propounded by those who don’t understand that educated people speed-read by recognising whole chunks of text in an instant and that the entire process grinds to a halt when people use the wrong word, the incorrect spelling or fail to punctuate and apostrophise properly.

          It isn’t pedantry: even if you ignore elegance it’s about communicating what you actually mean correctly and quickly and about eliminating ambiguity and misunderstanding.

          I don’t have time to wade through illiterate text, pausing every fifth word to stop and work out what the hell the writer actually meant. Maybe you do.

          • @ The Silk.

            So true. If you use a standard form of English, then anybody should be able to understand the meaning. Hey presto, communication. Use a ‘in groups’ dialect, then you end up with exclusion.

  2. I guess we’ll have to work sideways to get to the bottom of this piece. First and last: at what point HASN’T Toto Wolff shown that he prefers Nico Rosberg to Lewis Hamilton? I mean, you actually believe that leading, “here’s your out Toto,” question by Ted Kravitz wasn’t the perfect segue to Wolff rolling Hamilton under a Mercedes semi?! Wolff, ever the pragmatist, felt “sorry” for Hamilton – seriously?!

    The mistake was not bringing Hamilton in AFTER he warned Wolff/Lowe that his tires were already beginning to wear. Had Wolf brought in Hamilton first (since he was ahead of Rosberg and per Mercedes “rules” that’s how it goes) and brought Rosberg in the following lap, Mercedes might have had a one-two finish – certainly 2-3.

    Every single person who writes here seems to pull the selective memory trick with Hamilton and his alleged role at Mercedes. And because of that alleged role, how it shapes his perception of a driver he’s dominated for — I have to go through this crap every time I comment here – FIFTEEN YEARS.

    Lewis Hamilton was brought to Mercedes by Ross Brawn – period. And he was brought for one reason: to be the #! driver who sparks a middling Mercedes F1 program and takes it to the top.

    Left to his own devices Toto Wolff would have made Rosberg the undisputed #1 and hired someone like Nico Hulkenberg to be the #2.

    There is NO WAY you can ask a driver who has soundly beaten another driver at every level of racing since they were 13 or 14, where the obviously lesser driver ADMITS he’s lesser (as did Rosberg after the China GP) and then ask the dominant driver to suddenly be – at the whim of ANYONE on the team – #2 (see Seb Vettel vs. Mark Webber for the most recent #1 vs. #2 kerfuffle).

    Wolff knows he has a constructor’s championship in hand. He also knows, barring car failure to both cars for the next half dozen races, he has the double dip.

    All that’s left for Toto is to prove to the other paddocks chiefs that he can properly be a chieftain. But since he blew up Brawn’s #1 and #2 plan, which should be obvious to anyone who watches F1… NO, strike that! Go back and look for yourself, for once. Go back to the announcement of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. Go back and listen to Ross Brawn; listen to Hamilton. You’ll not find any, “hope to gel with Nico and be allow him to beat whenever necessary,” team player-type quotes. What you will find is EXACTLY why Brawn brought Lewis to the team, EXACTLY what Hamilton was brought there for, and EXACTLY what Hamilton was told his role would be.

    And Paddy Lowe? He’s easy. Yes man. When Hamilton hit the tire barrier at 170 mph guess who was nowhere near a microphone? And guess who he sent out to talk to the press? The Yes Man!

    The moment there was no doubt as to whose fault it was for Hamilton to wreck or ambiguity about a perceived car failure, Toto Wolff was nowhere near a pit lane mic.

    How’s that for feeling sorry for Lewis?

    • “Every single person who writes here seems to … and I have to go through this crap every time I comment here – FIFTEEN YEARS.”

      Seriously, get over yourself mate. Why keep attacking a whole community and it’s collective intelligence or perception? It’s in every reply you post. If it gives you such anger, which is sad because it’s just an opinion on the internet, then don’t come. I would have thought that is very simple, even for someone so intelligent as yourself.


      • what I have found s.i.s, is that people will find evidence to support their views even when there is none there.
        I have a friend who is a trained hypnotherapist who sees this in his patients. Whatever is presented to them, they will always twist the facts until it aligns with their views.
        I have written another OTD lite today about Lewis, Alonso and Mclaren. I have written it as a brief piece to start the day off and give no blame to either side, yet I guarantee the haters will see it differently.
        Personally I love Adam’s work, always have and I find it sad that people would rather change a persons work to suit their perceived ideas than to enjoy the piece.

        • I know we’ve had our differences in respect to our opinions, but don’t you think it’s a bit disrespectful to refer to people as “haters” just because they share a different opinion to yours and offer views that support hamilton rather than the usual bash him tactics?

          • It’s taken me a while, but I am now getting bored with this type of thing.

            Its a term. Its not disrespectful. Its like fanboy, again nothing but a word.

            There is no racial, religious, social or sexist connotations.

            I would ask that you try and stop being offended by words when there none being inferred against you.

            Finally, this might be worth a read…http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/salman-rushdie-were-all-too-offended-now-8755930.html

          • And to finish, what I find disrespectful is that one word can be taken out of context from a whole piece, to suit an agenda.

            Personally I find it manipulative and unedifying. The entire message cannot be argued, but one word in a few hundred can.

            I have defended your right to voice your opinion previously, a number of times. I’m not so sure I’ll be doing so in the future.

            Carlo has been on this site pretty much since it started. He is well respected and well liked, because he is a gentleman. Has a bit of class. Posts with respect, be it comments or articles.

            This is why I am so irritated by your comments. I can understand it against some of the contributors who can be a little more abrasive.

            But not in this instance. Not at all.

            Carlo, apologies for my sticking in the beak, but I won’t have this tripe being levelled at you without a response.

          • ….cue the Italian national anthem….. arise Sir… Carlo (or whatever a sir is in Italy)

            Agreed. TJ13 has meant to have an uncomfortable edge to it – and this was originally due to my sceptical eye – and we will retain that.

            There is even a sardonic element to our content – and that will remain in staunch opposition to the sycophant nature of certain mainstream media attitudes.

            If you want to hear what a wonderful day Nico Hulkenberg is having – go elsewhere.

            I don’t even mind someone writing “u r a dick-ead and U know noffin” to something I say, for obvious reasons 😉

          • Colin, as always sir, I salute you. Thank you for your gracious words – although putting me and the word class in the same sentence is a little surreal 😉

            It’s one thing I appreciate about this community, we won’t tolerate unfair criticism of another’s opinions. I try and maintain a balance in life, I do not judge anyone because of what they have be it material, personal or education but it seems many people do – probably says more about them than any words they care to use.

            As always Colin, a great evening to you, Grazie 🙂

            TJ, I think knighthoods in Italy go under the name stronzo, but I may have misunderstood. Anyway, in a country that elects Berlusconi to Prime Minister countles times, I’m not keen to bend my head forward to any sword wielder…

        • @carlo carluccio

          People tend to use/find evidence to support their own perception. Black people are always victims, Police are the universal enemy, Jews are money grabbing, Americans are stupid blah blah. Easy for those concepts to become the individuals reality. This is all to do with cognitive bias, which is glaringly obvious with the Hamilton stupidosi. The Russophobes are equally guilty.

          http://tinyurl.com/aqo9wth Cognitive Bias

      • As I commented before, I began commenting because, though I didn’t necessarily agree with what’s written in every post, I knew judge13 was/is a well-informed F1 writer.

        However, after subbing this blog, reading comments, and then reading Mercedes-related pieces, I’m actually really surprised that no writer here will acknowledge certain rudimentary facts about the Wolff-Brawn-Lowe-Hamilton-Rosberg circle of relationships.

        Acknowledging these facts fundamentally alters all subsequent conversations about the five men. Some commenters will still attempt to force their world views into issues they don’t belong or attempt to obfuscate truths by mixing in what, on the surface, seems to be expertise or knowledge (when the obfuscation is performed slickly enough), but, those people are readily outed and easily dealt with.

        It is saddening to, once again, read an “independent” sports blog (in this case, F1), but find that the vast majority of stances taken fall in line with mainstream reporting. Part of “Media Manipulation 101” is how to coerce readers/viewers to form opinions only within the boxes prescribed for them by the media!

        This routes back to the first point: properly and/or honestly contextualizing the five men with each other and the sport leads to entirely different conversations about recent, present, and future events involving the Merc F1 team.

        So, I’m left to wonder if honest, sober conversations about F1 are the goal here, or is there something else afoot? After all, relative to the above blogpost, the best satire is unflinchingly truth-telling at its core; today John Oliver, Jon Stewart, Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle are some of our finest satirists – they also expose truths to us that might, otherwise, be unpalatable.

        From all accounts, including his own, Carlos is supposed to be the stirrer of pots. Unfortunately, since the post is not rooted in the truth about these five men’s relationships to each other, the post washes out as just another click in the media spin cycle.

        Now, to SIS (and apologists)-

        No one would take umbrage with the statement unless it was/is applicable to them- it’s called, “inference.”

        See, you know I was primarily addressing you, SIS, and anyone else, who, unless it suits their ends, trades opinion for fact, or who is an adult in 2014 and pretends not to understand media manipulation (you want to “examine” what year of Hamilton’s again? Ohhhh right! 2011).

        How about examining Lewis Hamilton total life habit changes he underwent from last season to this? No? What, that’s not true in your world? How about a sober piece on where the personal exhortation to continue to pop back to the surface no matter the obstacles —- or is that too real… well, it certainly looks like it is because, apparently, it is easier to be nasty and flip and turn his faith-based (which Hamilton does not, like so many other athletes, try to shove down other peoples’ throats) exhortation into something trivial.

        You see, it’s not that your coded language, your eschewing facts for a popular stance, your cherry-picking of facts to construct a fallacious argument complete with a false end, or feigning ignorance when it’s quite apparent that you follow the sport closely that is troubling. It’s the fact that you will resort to using a bully pulpit when exposed – you’ve done it to me from my first comment on, and since I began reading the comments, you do it to pretty much anyone who is staunchly disagrees with you.

        In the end, though, I could care less; it makes it even more fun to use little things like facts, to appear royally pissed off to make you seethe more, so you take that inevitable next step into ad hominem attacks (which, in an environment where reality trumps perception, renders any point made by said person, moot).

        I came to this blog to get away from the pap I read on Sky Sports’ F1 page – or NBC Sports, or F1 Magazine, Planet F1, or from Peter Windsor. But it seems the doings at Mercedes, and with Lewis Hamilton in particular, have turned the commentary surrounding them – then cast back out into F1 past and present – into a devolved version of the aforementioned mainstream sources.

        Though the mention of Nico Hulkenberg was removed from its context in my comment and, in a reply above, treated as though it was some sort of end statement to the point of dismissing Hulkenberg’s talents as a driver (the last two years he was media-deigned as being on the very short list of preferred “next guy up in class” drivers, after all) perhaps the commentary surrounding Mr. Hulkenberg would reach the synapses wherein the concept of “insight” is sparked (lol).

        In the infamous words of Floyd Mayweather, “Step your game up!”

        • ….”It is saddening to, once again, read an “independent” sports blog (in this case, F1), but find that the vast majority of stances taken fall in line with mainstream reporting”

          Not sure you’ve done your research even today…

          The headline for the Mercedes – Zetsche story today on a hundred other website was, “Only ’emergency’ team orders at Mercedes – Zetsche”

          As is our proud tradition…. we reported what was actually said and implied…. together with the context of whose stance this supported, Lauda or Wolff!

        • I’m still trying to work out why Carlos or even myself has been mentioned as a stirrer of pots in relation to these five men.

          I’m assuming you missed the author of the piece?

      • Hmm, but many would argue that Hamilton came in for Brawn, not for Lauda. And chances are that now he will depart the team because Brawn isn’t there anymore, irrespective of what Lauda does or doesn’t do.

          • Sure, but this doesn’t change the fact that Hamilton came into Merc for Brawn and Brawn only, with Lauda (and Rosberg himself, for the matter) simply acting as a middle-man. That’s how I perceived the affair, anyways..

            As for where Hamilton would go? Hmm.. This may soon become a secondary concern if what some feel that is already happening will become a reality, namely that Hamilton is being wolffed out of Brackley.. Push Lewis a little, and make him feel unwanted, and he will collect his toys and go play elsewhere. Just ask McLaren!

            (And please all those salivating out there don’t jump on me with all the “why me” Hamiltonite theories!)

      • In that order judge or do we have to work it out for ourselves lol.
        What part did big Ron play apart from telling Lewis, ” you work for me” and “in not paying the same rate for the next 3years”

        • ….. Haha…

          I believe having handled a number of large employment contract negotiations in by gone times, that as agent… Dennis attitude would have sent me hurrying to my client suggesting they were no longer wanted….

          ….nay, its stronger than that, its akin to be told to F Off.

          Further, I could get a placement fee from the new employer – say 10-20% of earnings, as well as the regular 20-25% I am already charging my charge each year for the privilege of being looked after by me..

          It is not in XIX immediate financial interests for Hamilton to stay at Mercedes… move him on – another $6-7m placement fee.

          If he stays, they get what they are getting now – plus a share of any increase in cash they can negotiate for Lewis…

      • judge 13-
        Why are you so steadfastly defending that ridiculous notion that Lauda somehow was responsible for Hamilton to Mercedes?!

        Since no one believes I do my absolute best to deal only in facts maybe you’ll believe this:

        FROM THE GUARDIAN, AUGUST 28, 2013

        “The reassuring figure of Brawn was one of the reasons why Hamilton switched from McLaren to Mercedes at the end of last season. This is a man who knows how to deliver championships and there are signs that he is at last turning things round, just as he did at Ferrari after a few years in charge.

        Hamilton added: “He’s great to work with. He’s created a very relaxed environment, he’s very easy to approach, he communicates really well and is very hands-on with the drivers and everyone. He sits in on all the meetings. He does a fantastic job.

        “I signed with him being here and I’m very happy working with him we are building a great relationship. Inevitably at some stage he’ll want to stop. Who knows when that’ll be? I hope it’s not too soon. I hope we get to have many victories together.”

        ARTICLE LINK: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/apr/18/lewis-hamilton-ross-brawn-mercedes-f1

        Only after Brawn was to step down did Hamilton play the good company soldier and say that Brawn was only among the reasons he came to Mercedes.

        • …Your first paragraph is a commentator’s opinion…

          You omit the fundamental and crucial matter, that Dennis wanted him out of McLaren, hence he didn’t move ‘for Brawn’ – he moved because he had no choice.

          Thirdly, Lauda was the one contacted by XIX to inform him Lewis may be available. Niki then used his influence in Stuttgart to gain approval to approach Hamilton.

          Finally, you can Google your heart out to try and find a Hamilton comment on why he was joining Mercedes in advance – and will find no mention of Ross Brawn

          Your use of Hamilton’s sentiments are praxis – post rationalisation of a prior event – hindsight.

          ..and as such are not reliable or proper indicators to the intent of Hamilton prior to joining Mercedes.

          Ron Dennis threatening Lewis in person and IN PUBLIC with a slash in wages is most certainly a prior event worthy of consideration.

          • For the love of Thor’s hammer!

            I can’t wait for an internet whereby all the self proclaimed intellectual powerhouses can be just ignored without having to scroll through paragraphs of electronic poop.

            Please Mr Google, Santa, anybody…..make it happen. Quickly!

  3. Excellent piece! Thanks so much for spelling out to non-Brits this Judy and Punch show.

    And hearty applause for “a certain Red Bovine pair”. 🙂

  4. @ thejudge13

    ‘It is not in XIX immediate financial interests for Hamilton to stay at Mercedes…snip….If he stays…..’

    That’s the nub of the matter. Lewis went with a music and fashion agency, rather than a specialist sports agency, like IMG, that would take the long term view.

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