During the British GP, the two pesky Independent William’s cars had usurped the right of the German made dominant Mercedes rocket ships, to lead a race. And this did not make certain folk happy.
Hamilton famed for his overtaking prowess was neutered by a combination of his opponents’ Mercedes power unit inside the Martini liveried cars and the 2015 aerodynamic regulations which make it increasingly difficult for cars to pass each other on track.
Then someone at Mercedes AMG F1 came up with a wheeze. “Let’s send out our mechanics to fake preparation for a pitstop. And hope a William’s driver falls for it and pits too”.
This is in breach of Formula One’s sporting regulations, Article 23.11 which states: “Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete.”
Wolff admitted after the race. “We know that Williams has more difficulties in making the tyres last at the end and we knew that triggering an early stop would make them think, are we able to do that? It could trigger them into a pit stop.
“It was a bit of a game, which didn’t function. My wife sent me a WhatsApp message, saying: ‘You guys think you can fool us, hah, hah, hah.’”
Joking, Toto added, “I’m having an Indian alone tonight.”
Charlie Whiting is not amused, and is determined to clamp down on Mercedes and any other team playing fast and loose with the regulations. “We have no intention of giving them a few chances and will be speaking to all the teams in Hungary about this and warning them that we will want to see (and hear) evidence that they were actually intending to stop,” commented ad spokesperson from the FIA.
Yet Whiting is in fact impotent to prevent this practice. He admitted, “At the time, what Mercedes did was OK as no-one knew that they were not actually going to stop. In fact we still don’t really know.
“However, in view of the fact that they were alleged to have said that it was a ‘dummy’ stop, they may have put their foot in it rather.”
The evidence from Mercedes pit to car radio even supported the perception that a tyre change for Lewis could be on the cards.
The thinking behind article 23:11 is one of safety. The pit lane can be a dangerous place and so unnecessary exposure of mechanics to that environment is frowned upon.
In reality, besides talking tough, there is little Whiting can do about this – so long as senior team personnel don’t get so cocky and reveal their lack of knowledge of what is and isn’t allowed by the sport’s sporting regulations.