Mercedes race management soars to new heights

CommentThe Mercedes ‘rules of engagement’ is a tome penned by Paddy and Toto. Its design is to predict all possible areas of on-track conflict between the Mercedes team’s two drivers and codify how the plethora of scenarios can be overcome without incident.

The rule book Niki Lauda described during this year’s Australian GP is of biblical proportions including provisions for Nico and Lewis to be offered the decision of when to do their final Q3 runs on an alternating GP weekend basis.

Other codified scenarios include the lead driver having the first call on when to have his pit stop when both Mercedes drivers were running the same pit stop and tyre strategy.

When running alternate tyre strategies the drivers must not interfere/hinder the other despite track position. This chapter famously caused an almighty eruption in Hungary 2014, when Rosberg had handed a race strategy which would see him stop one more time than Hamilton.

Following a safety car period, Mercedes decided to split the driver strategies. Nico was given an aggressive three-stop strategy, whilst Lewis who was 2 places behind his team-mate at the time was offered a two-stop solution to regain track position.

The strategy appeared to favour the current order on track, but should have seen both Mercedes drivers on the podium. It was also believed to be the strategy which give Mercedes the highest haul of points.

Rosberg having stopped earlier than Hamilton was chasing him down at over a second a lap on a newer set of tyres. Hamilton meanwhile was required to be in ‘tyre management’ mode, to see him through to his final stop, from where he would run to end of the race.

Having closed the 12 second gap, Rosberg arrived on the tail of Hamilton, who then picked up his pace to defend against his team-mate. Paddy Lowe gave the order which was transmitted to Lewis, “let Nico past on the main start/finish straight”.

Hamilton was told twice more to let Rosberg through, but he refused to comply. The result was both Lewis’ and Nico’s ideal finishing positions being compromised. Hamilton had too little rubber to overtake a struggling Fernando Alonso and finished third, whilst Rosberg was fourth.

Lewis was candid about his actions, stating his primary objective was to beat his main championship rival.

The overarching principle which governs all the minutia in the Mercedes ‘rules of engagement’ handbook is – “We work for the best possible result for the team – regardless of the individual driver’s ambition”.

Speaking to SKY F1’s Craig Slater, Wolff confirmed after this weekend’s race in China, “Lewis first responsibility is to guarantee a good race result for the team, because there are 1500 people working in the background for that result”.

Given the shock result in Malaysia and a rejuvenated Ferrari team, Paddy and Toto’s Underwood No. 5’s were a blur of activity on the flight home to Brackley, such that other first class customers complained of the paper aeroplane flights that regularly buzzed the premier seating cabin.

The F1 world champion team bosses had a whole new set of on track possibilities to codify to avoid possible embarrassment again as in Shanghai.

What has changed in 2015 is that Ferrari are much closer to the Silver Arrows in terms of race pace and importantly the red team have demonstrated their tyre wear on both compounds in Malaysia and China is less significant than that of the W06.

Mercedes have now taken their micro management of races to a new level. Concerned the Ferrari cars could run longer on their first set of tyres, Lewis and Nico were told to drive significantly slower than was possible, to nullify any opportunity for one or both Ferrari’s to gain track position at the first set of pit stops.

This plan required both drivers to comply, because if Nico went after Hamilton in an attempt to overtake him, Mercedes believed both cars would be compromised and the Ferrari’s would take an advantage.

The analysis which led to this race management strategy, Niki Lauda revealed, was formulated on Friday night following the FP2 race simulations which had Ferrari within 0.2 seconds per lap on race pace.

Both cars qualifying on the front row had no effect on the plan, which explains Nico’s anguish at losing out on pole by a mere 0.042 seconds. The die was cast; the race was to be a trundle and in the words of Fangio, a “win at the slowest possible speed”.

TJ13 has learned, one new and important insertion has been made into the Mercedes racing version of the Levitical code. The AMG F1 drivers will not be allowed to race each other when the gap to the opposition is less than x.

X is a variable to be set during each race weekend given the strategists view of the team’s vulnerability from their rivals. Tyre management is now king.

In the Mercedes press briefing following the race in China, Toto Wolff explained how things have changed since last year. “And if it would ever come to the call between interfering between the two of them because we risk to lose a race, then we would do that. We don’t have the gap any more from last year where we can just let them push each other until the very end. We need to manage the gaps between the two of them.”

There is however light at the end of the tunnel for those fans hoping to see cars competing on track. Mercedes consciously broke one of its rules on Sunday by pitting Rosberg before Lewis at the second round of pit stops.

The call when to stop has been enshrined in Mercedes ‘order of events’ as that of the lead driver when both cars are on identical tyre strategies, though Hamilton was not afforded this right in Shanghai.

Each and every F1 fan should be petitioning the F1 gods to look favourably on the team from Maranello. As Ferrari close the gap further on Mercedes, then and only then may the weighty silver clad volume entitled ‘rules of engagement’ be rendered useless.

Then, just maybe, F1 racing will resume.

23 responses to “Mercedes race management soars to new heights

  1. Guys, is real that drivers are struggling more to follow close (or into the slipstream) this year in comparision with 2014 (is it because the new noses)?

    • The Mercedes cars didn’t make the kind of easy progress following the safety car in Malaysia they made in 2014 – which was the first indication.

      In China, the order of the top four was never in doubt. Vettel attacked Rosberg, his tyres were damaged. Rosberg moved closer to Lewis on the first stint – the same happened.

      Not good news for F1 racing this year. The up coming two ‘B’s could well be snooze-fests.

      • Instead of the handbag war between Lewis and Nico we should be having a massive rant about the aero regulations and front wings as this and the tyres are killing overtaking opportunities.

        • Yeah watched WEC race for first time, amazed at how close they can all run together, even through fast corners like Becketts. Something has gone very wrong with the aero rules in F1 if they can’t even get within striking distance

      • Just a thought, maybe it is slightly more tricky to overtake, but verstappen seems to be doing plenty of overtaking, also Button seemed not to bad considering he’s got a lawn mower engine to work with. Also can’t help but feel Lewis is better at this than both Vettel and Nico, just he’s had less need to overtake people. Kinda reminds me of Ralf and JPM, in that’s respect.

        On a side note, I thought backing Nico was quite clever, and from a selfish point of view thought it might give us a race for 2nd/3rd.

        • I don’t want to bag the guy but dive bombing into corners from a mile back will only work for a race or two. Perez was know for it for a while. Ricciardo, too.

          The other drivers will be looking for it now and cover or turn in anyway and call foul.

          If he’s really any good (and I think he is) then he’ll need more tricks up his sleeve.

  2. Great post TJ13. You have been a bit dry lately with only the Hippo to provide spice and humor.

    Can’t wait for the Europe season to commence with various rumored upgrades.

  3. The micromanagement referred to above is something I see everyday in my current company. Which is German…

    There are rules and processes for everything and everyone. To not follow can be a serious disciplinary event! And that is before you get to what you have to do in your role.

    Maybe Nico is more German than he realises, in expecting everyone to comply, and then realising that Lewis, erm, has more self-determination…

  4. But if the leader of the team gets the right to chose his pitstop first and he decides his tires are good enough to stay out a couple laps more and the team decides to call in no 2 is it really breaking their own rules? Maybe no 2 needed the fresh tires. So this would be of best interests for the team to maximise the out come of the race. Or is there something wrong with my point of view?

  5. Enough of this blather. The simple fact is the Hamilton is a much better and much faster driver then Rosberg. Without the luck of having a superior car, Rosberg would be midfield at best. He should be happy with having a great car to drive. Others as talented are consigned to CART or worse. The politics that abound are just window dressing at best. Hamilton wins unless he or his car breaks.

  6. Re-Hungary 2014,
    @thejudge13 you omitted the radio call where Lewis told the team he wouldn’t hold up Nico if he got close enough, but wasn’t going to slow down for him.

    • It was a summary of the event as part of the context for a new story. That didn’t add or detract from the perspective in anyway.

      To include all that was said after that event by all the parties would have made the article 2-3 times the length and cumbersome.

      • The way it was written certainly gives it a certain colour/tone though? To suggest “Rosberg arrived on the tail of Hamilton” when he didn’t even get within DRS range isn’t strictly speaking true. The narrative presented above suggests a flying Rosberg suddenly finding himself stuck behind a trundling Hamilton which simply didn’t happen. In fairness the way it was presented above was indeed consistent with the way that some writers for TJ13 presented it at the time, but that doesn’t make it accurate or correct.

        The entire fall-out and ‘afters’ from that event weren’t required for the article, but deliberately skewing the information presented to try and fit the thrust of the piece isn’t required either.

        • You are now awarded the Hamfosi platinum rosette.

          Hungary 2014 was the best example of the Mercedes ‘rules of engagement’ bible going tits up.

          Try reading what was written without the vicarious need to defend/promote your hero.

          Facts are facts, whether you like them or not.

          • Thus is exactly true, but not reporting all of them equally, fairly or by omitting cherry picked facts, does not represent a whole picture… irrespective of whichever drivers flag one nails to ones mast

        • Dont look like Rosberg will beat Hamilton in a race while he has a hole up his arse!!! Good at moaning from the other hole though the tw4t.

  7. Rosberg….put your foot down and drive faster… if your teammate is going too slow, then you should try overtaking him for once in your miserable phukkin life!!! Stop whinging like a tw4t and grow some balls you fukkin nerd!!!!

    • Uuuh… Read the article?

      It is true, in my view, that Hamilton is better, but he is mostly looking out for #1. Fine with me UNLESS you’re taking advantage of team orders to screw your teammate.

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