Mercedes cost Hamilton a better shot at the Mexico race win

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During the 2015 Mexican GP, we had a glimpse again into the significant margin of the Mercedes dominance over the field. Granted, Ferrari decided not to show up and Sebastian Vetel briefly traded lap times with the Mercedes following his second stop, though his tyres were about 10 laps fresher than either Hamilton’s or Rosberg’s.

Mercedes had decided the race would be a one stop race before the off, though simulations showed that a two stop strategy would deliver an almost similar race time – albeit the risk of traffic and safety cars had to be considered.

Nico Rosberg managed to retain his lead form the off, through T1 and then beyond the first lap. However, the gap between him and Lewis Hamilton never exceeded three seconds. Hamilton would put in a quick lap to close the gap and Rosberg responded keeping his team mate out of DRS for all but one laps of the race.

This was a controlled drive by Rosberg and it appeared he managed the life in the soft tyre during the first stint to perfection. Given that the timing of the first pit stop was his call, the German pitted at the end of lap 25 having put in a previous lap time of 1:23:316. Lewis attempted the undercut, and pressed on for two laps more, however his last flying lap before pitting was a mere 1:23:506 and Rosberg delivered a similar time on his new prime tyre which was not yet fully up to speed.

The team reported Rosberg had 10% life left in the tyre and given Hamilton’s performance after Rosberg stopped, the life in his soft tyres was almost done too. The procession toward a Mercedes 1-2 then began as both drivers built up a lead of more than a pit stop over the Red Bull of Kvyat running in third place.

Then on lap 46, Rosberg stopped for another set of prime tyres, and the commentary teams were thrown into confusion. Did the German have a problem? Were his tyres on the way out? What was for certain is Lewis sniffed a chance to reverse the order of the weekend and yet again put one over on his team mate.

As it transpired, Mercedes were just playing it careful. Tyre wear for a one stop race was marginal for both drivers and the spectre of Vettel’s attempted final stint in Spa was still fresh in the minds of the strategists back in Brackley. Rosberg claimed the switch to ‘plan B’ irritated him at the time, “I was in a good rhythm… and there are always risks with pit stops,” the German said after the race.

Hamilton was told to stop on the lap after Rosberg, however Lewis chose to question the team’s decision.

Lewis eventually relented, but told the team “check those tyres and let me know” – the implication being he felt he was being robbed of a chance to beat his team mate. Whether Hamilton would have obeyed the team ‘instruction’ had the drivers’ title still been open is an interesting matter to contemplate given his actions in the Hungarian GP in 2014.

However, the team call may well have cost Lewis a real crack at beating Rosberg. On lap 52 Vettel’s miserable race came to an end in the wall and the safety car was deployed. Had Lewis ignored the team instruction, he would have been able to pit under the safety car and at the restart his tyres would have been several laps newer than Rosberg’s.

Mercedes control their drivers tightly following a number of on track incidents including using extra engine power modes, along with the incidents in Hungary and Spa last year. The Mercedes “rules of team mate engagement” tome was 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.

This rule book was described by Niki Lauda during this year’s Australian GP, as being of biblical proportions and includes provisions for Nico and Lewis to be offered the decision of when to do their final Q3 runs on an alternating GP weekend basis.

Mercedes claim they ‘let the driver’s race’, but does forcing Lewis Hamilton to switch tyres in Mexico really Belie this claim?

Do you the TJ13 jury think Mercedes were right to force Hamilton to stop in Mexico?

42 responses to “Mercedes cost Hamilton a better shot at the Mexico race win

  1. When does “driver judgement” come into play during an F1 race? When the ego of a teammate is at stake. Despite what should be an incontrovertible fact, that Lewis Hamilton is clearly a better Formula One driver than is his teammate, Nico Rosberg, Toto and Niki continue to play out this ruse that Rosberg is a #1 just like Hamilton. If we go back to Red Bull’s recent dominance and place Seb Vettel and Mark Webber in exactly the same situation, Vettel stays on the track instead of pitting, then pits during the deployment of the safety car, and wins the race over Webber. Sure, Webber gets pissed, the team responds with a post-race mea culpa to Webber but privately, out of Mark’s view are glad-handing Vettel for a job well done.

    Now, if this was our newest hero gladiator Max Verstappen who did this most people would be defending him for refusing to obey a team order. They would be yowling about how his act was “the mark of a champion to be.”

    My my, how differently we perceive F1 drivers.

        • Yep, a guy who’s in the current Mercedes – one of he best cars in F1 history – potentially being threatened for runner-up by a lacklustre Ferrari.

          Yeah, he’s aces.

          Sorry, mate. DWil’s got it pegged. Nico’s hopeless.

          • But the guy driving that hapless Ferrari is a 4x champ, so give him some respect.

            Furthermore I wasn’t saying Nico wasn’t hapless, but rather that he’s better than Eddie and Rubes…..

          • Yeah, sorry, but no. Rubens wouldn’t have trouble coming 2nd in the most dominant car. He’s proven that. Rosberg on the other hand…

            I must say though, it’s a once in a lifetime privledge to see you defending Rosberg.

            As for respect for Vettel… oh I have plenty. He’s he star driver of ’15, for sure.

    • true indeed dwil, one mans terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

      Think we need to draw the distinction between a team (who provide the winning car, pay the salaries etc)
      a) looking after the teams interests (ensuring 1-2, maximising team result for ‘constructors’ championship), and
      b) sticking its beak in to artificially decide the outcome of the ‘drivers’ championship.
      Problem here of course for the fans is we don’t always know when the team is simply ensuring the best team result or when the team is favouring one golden child over say a grittier type team mate 🙂

      When a team obviously interferes to favour one driver and artificially set results, I think everybody tends to gravitate towards ‘a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do’ and respects drivers who say, f*ck no, I’m not having this.

      This time around I’m not convinced that was the story, no championship positions riding on it, no real drama if Nico or Lewis win the race, I think it was just Mercedes being Mercedes, that is ultra-conservative, as is their want (and indeed right). But I don’t/can’t know for sure….if it came out that Toto or whoever wanted to stage manage the result I’d be royally pissed.
      But to me this one just seemed like a case of lets be safe on the tyres, why risk it, we win unless we do something stupid.

      As for Lewis saying no, well he did come in, and it’s hardly the first time a driver has haggled a bit on the radio before relenting to a team instruction. Had he stayed out it would have been more newsworthy for me.

  2. Tis is a load of crap, infact Mercedes saved Lewis’s 2nd position. the safety car came out and he would have had to pit losing 1st or he would be over taken by Rosberg on the restart! maybe even bottas!

  3. Mercedes had a pit stop in hand for both drivers, so it was a logical decision to come in and change tyres. Why risk running to the end of the race. They could hardly let Hamilton stay out and run to the end if they had already told Rosberg to pit. Imagine the amount of toys that he would have thrown out of the pram in that situation. And rightly so. They had to treat both drivers the same or it would have been totally unfair, and a hollow victory for Hamilton.

        • Fortis was using five words instead of the eleven as in this latin version “praestat tacere et stultus haberi quam edicere et omne dubium removere”

          • I guess that answers it. Didn’t take long….

            Oh, can you do it in Greek too? You’ll look super-duper smart then.

            😀

  4. The good ol’ team order question. It always seems to pop up in one form or another whenever a popular driver becomes the victim of team orders, strangely though not so much when popular drivers become the benefactor of team orders…

    One question does not seem to be asked in the article and that is has Rosberg ever come into a similar situation? I personally believe Rosberg is too much of a good boy to actually ignore a team order for a lap like Hamilton did so I don’t believe it has ever happened to Rosberg but my historical knowledge of F1 is not that detailed.

    Should Hamilton have done a Vettel (ignore multi 21) and throw away the plans from the Mercedes team for his own benefit and make Rosberg look as stupidly gullible as Webber looked on that faithful day in Malaysia?

  5. Please, don’t poke the bear….

    If you are going to ask that question then you have to ask the same thing for Nico – you’ve already made it clear he wasn’t so keen to stop either but did so at the request of the team.

    Allowing one driver freedom while telling the other what to do – especially in the championship as it stands – would be worse than pointless as it would show unnecessary favouritism.

    You could extend the argument by saying that if both drivers had been offered and refused the stop then Nico might well have got first service during the safety car meaning Lewis would have to either do an extra lap or be stacked.

    Also, had Lewis not pitted then Seb might not have crashed. He seemed to be trying to keep up with the Mercs, maybe he over-cooked it as a result. He certainly had his rhythm disturbed having to move over to let them through.

    If, buts, maybes. The team decided to play it safe and leave it to the drivers to fight in equal terms.

    • I agree. They ordered Nico to pit for safety reasons, not because he wanted to, so it was only logical and fair to pit Lewis.

  6. “Had Hamilton ignored…newer then Rosbergs”. It is really pushing the “what if” scenario when the fulfillment depends on Vettel crashing out.

  7. Nothing to do with the good (teammates) book for me.
    The drivers had the chance to race on the same strategy.
    The team simply took responsibility for ensuring the team got a 1-2 finish and didn’t risk it all just to affect the order of that 1-2. Had Lewis stayed out and had a tyre problem everyone would blame Mercedes, not Lewis, after all, if the tyre was a problem it would be the teams responsibility not the drivers. Even if Lewis refused an order to stop and then had a problem the reaction would be that Merc should have forced him to come in as they knew better due to having the data at their disposal.

  8. Deliberately using the phrase “for safety reasons” in that radio message from the pits to Hamilton suggested they were trying to get into his head to force him to pit. If you start questioning the safety aspect it’s inevitably going to niggle away for a driver if they don’t know the full story – just look at how unsettled he got in Monza when they told Hamilton he had to push hard at the end without explaining why.

  9. I thought about it and i don’t know the answer in all honesty. Lewis’s title challenge came together last year when he started ignoring the team on how to manage his tyres, so he clearly knows whats he’s doing and should be left to make his own decisions. But if Nico was told to pit for the same reason as Lewis, then it seems fair to me. I think the more telling thing is that Lewis questioned the decision and Nico didn’t.

  10. The team might have chosen to “play it safe to leave it to the drivers to fight in equal terms” but that really isn’t the point is it?

    The real questions are: 1) did Mercedes cost Lewis Hamilton a chance to win the race; 2) does the driver have any say in how he chooses to augment his race strategy once the race has begun; 3) Hamilton did comply with the team’s wants essentially, in his perception, handing the race to Rosberg (however, from the comments so far the implied counter-argument is that a 3-time WDC – any F1 driver, for that matter – knows less about strategy and the condition of his car and tires than does an onlooker watching the race on television); 4) no one has yet to acknowledge that Hamilton, in this instance, was a “team player”, and; 5) that other “popular” drivers have been lauded for disobeying a direct team order that the driver felt would cost him a chance at winning the race or maintaining an on-track position, but not Hamilton.

    To answer a question-comment: RobDin – “Should Hamilton have done a Vettel (ignore multi 21) and throw away the plans from the Mercedes team for his own benefit and make Rosberg look as stupidly gullible as Webber looked on that faithful day in Malaysia?”

    There was communication to both Webber and Vettel – an explicit order in Malaysia for Vettel not to overtake Webber. This was NOT race strategy order but a team-building, team-enhancing team order that Vettel ignored. Additionally, as we’ve come to find, Vettel went to far as to hire lawyers to avoid punishment from the team (http://www.espn.co.uk/f1/story/_/id/13186097/sebastian-vettel-involved-lawyers-multi-21-says-mark-webber), a fact, according to Webber, never spoken of when pro-Vettel or allegedly fair-minded F1 fans speak of when commenting about the 4-time WDC! What would the reaction be if Rosberg revealed such a thing about Hamilton?

    And yet, if anyone does visit the linked article and looks at the sidebar of the article beneath, a recap of the Mexico GP, check the “Story of the Race.” The FIRST storyline is about Hamilton, “seeming to initially ignore a call to stop in the latter stage in the race.”

    “Seeming to initially ignore a call…” is Laurence Edmondson serious?! Sadly, the ESPN F1 editor is. BUT. That Hamilton questioning the call and giving his input about his own car (remember Lewis Hamilton is his own race-day engineer) is being recontextualized to appear as though Hamilton was attempting a coup.

    Finally, does anyone seriously believe Nico Rosberg is Lewis Hamilton’s equal as a driver? And if not why is Hamilton not Mercedes stated #1 driver (and if not stated by Mercedes, roundly stated by pundits and knowing F1 watchers), as happens on any other team where one driver is clearly better than his teammate? Would anyone call ANY driver on a team with Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Prost, Senna, Piquet, Schumacher that hasn’t sniffed a WDC a “co-#1 driver?!”

  11. Q: “Do you the TJ13 jury think Mercedes were right to force Hamilton to stop in Mexico?”
    or
    Q: “Should Mercedes have less control over their driver decisions”
    Well, which of these questions are you asking? Because they aren’t the same question.

  12. My grand pappy used to tell me that just because someone wants to hand you a pile of sh!t doesn’t mean you have to take it.

    Team orders suck a bag full and are to be disregarded for the good of interesting racing.

    MB have got the silver pyjama boys so tightly under the corporate thumb that they’re both getting serious bald spots.

    I really want either Lewis or Nico to blatantly disobey orders just to see what happens and for their own mental health. I mean, how bad could it get? Matron Toto yells at you? Niki & the leprechaun get a quivery lip?
    Devastating (not).

  13. The situation is very simple. Merc and Lewis got their titles. They now wanted to secure the no 2 spot for Nico and give him a bit of confidence.

  14. Mercedes really F’d up this one, and lied to their world champion.

    The team should have made both drivers aware that a strategy change was possible. They were watching the timing screens just like the rest of us, and it was obvious that the two Mercedes cars were putting enough gap on Kvyat to get an extra stop in. The team should have made the drivers aware of this, because then they could have pushed the Mediums even harder, and wore them out before the pit.
    The only reason the team could have wanted to withhold that information, was to keep Lewis from pressuring Nico. They basically pitted Nico and told Lewis of the change at the same time. According to their “rules of engagement”, Lewis would have to pit as well, whether he wanted to or not. When he questioned the change, the team lied to him, and told him that Nico’s tyres were shredded, and his were too. Lewis questioned again, and the team told him that he had to change, because “safety”.
    After the change, Lewis asked the team to check his tyres and verify. This was a very smart move on Lewis’s part. While it is a direct shot at the team, telling them he knows they lied to him, it is also a necessary and reasonable question for any driver to ask.
    If the team had estimated that the Mediums would go to the end, and at half that distance they were already toast, this is a huge problem for the driver. He would need this information to know how hard he is able to push the new set of tyres in the last stint.
    After the race, the team “clarified” the tyre situation by saying that the tyres were not technically beyond usable life when Lewis pit, but that they “would have been” by the end of the race. Horses*t.

    Lewis would do well to put this little team f-up in his pocket, and save it for a rainy day. He was quite calm about it after the race, though as the judge says, if the title was still on the line, I think this would have been a much more significant situation, and I think Hamilton would not have pit.

    Mark my words, we have not heard the last of this.

    • Good analysis.
      The problem was not so much the team order, as the rather less than forthright way in which it was presented.

      Both drivers dealt with it quite well, in their own ways.

    • Rubbish. No one was claiming that the tyres were already shot at the time. Bonno pretty clearly said that the first stint’s tyres were done and that they’d be pushing it to make the primes go all the way to the end, so they were pitting to be safe. Hamilton saying his tyres felt fine was missing the point. It wasn’t about the tyres at that stage of the race, it was about the tyres at the end of the race, and they had more than enough time in hand to just go ahead and remove any concerns. Maybe it could have been explained clearer to him that Rosberg’s tyres were also fine at that point and they were pitting both cars then for the same reason, but I imagine there’s a degree of assumption that the driver won’t insist on engaging in a lengthy argument against what is pretty clearly a team call to pit based on strategy/safety rather than how the driver feels about the current condition of the tyres.

      Rosberg maintained a gap to Hamilton all through the race, and any time Hamilton pushed Rosberg was able to respond. Hamilton himself said he couldn’t really get close enough to do anything because of the loss of aero in Nico’s dirty air. So if they’d made the plan B switch earlier and told the drivers to push… what difference would it have really made to the result?

      The only “lie” might have been Bonno’s 0% remark about the first stint’s tyres, perhaps in order to get Hamilton to just shut up and take the stop. But even then, Rosberg had earlier in the race been told his options had been run down to 10%, and Lewis had run an extra couple of hard laps on his trying to come out of the stops ahead of Rosberg. So even if it was an exaggeration, it likely wasn’t a very big one.

      Remember earlier in the year when Hamilton cleverly argued his way into getting that pit stop in Monaco? There’s a time and place for driver input into pit strategy calls and tyre choice and whatnot, but Hamilton also needs to learn when to shut his face and trust in the team of much smarter, much better informed people who’ve helped him take all those race wins and WDCs.

      • Lewis Hamilton, the dumbest man to ever drive in Formula One. He must be saved from himself because he’s incapable of coherent thought. Whenever he’s allowed to think the end is catastrophic. Hamilton never give credit to his team, his car, or his mechanics or engineers (his side of the garage HAD to be paid off to say Lewis was, for a man in his position as multiple-WDC winner, remains “humble,” and is just “one of the guys.”…). Unlike other drivers, even 18-year old Max Verstappen, Hamilton has NO right to even question his strategist, let alone disobey not one, but two direct orders during a race (and then have his team, the press and most F1 watcher defend him by repeating the lie that Sainz wasn’t close enough” a la Hamilton-Rosberg, when in fact, UNLIKE Rosberg, who never got top within a second of Hamilton, Sainz was .5 behind Verstappen while MV dropped -.3 behind Perez in two laps – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jbOMOVon6o… watch from the 2 hour mark to race end).

        And unlike other multiple WDC champions Lewis Hamilton can only win races when: 1) lucky (2008) or 2) when he has a car that no one else can touch – 2014-15 (which doesn’t say much for his teammate, eh?!). But all other multiple WDC-winning drivers (save for Ayrton Senna) won on their intelligence and guile with lesser cars than other drivers in the field – right???? Though people conveniently forget that Hamilton was a single point away from winning the WDC in his ROOKIE season – a feat never before or since done… hmmm, that lucky, lucky, ignorant, immature guy.

  15. Rosberg would have had every right to complain if he’d pitted when asked and Lewis had not.

  16. The title of this article is a bit misleading considering both drivers were told to come in. Are you suggesting they should only have forced Rosberg to pit to ensure Hamilton took the lead?

  17. Some people have short memories and Lewis is no different…..
    Last time he tried strategic thinking on tyres, Monaco wasn’t it(?), the result ended in tears. His.

  18. 1) His team has 1 strategist, 1 strategy, he know’s it’s fair to race but the team will not help one overtake the other. He knows this before he knows anything.
    2) Had he disobeyed, his victory would have been more hollow than rosbergs in monaco where he actually played a part in helping rosberg win that race. Why would anyone want to see him question his team to end up looking a bit shallow?
    3) The winner here was lewis hamilton, because he was able to save himself from Lewis Hamilton.

  19. At least Vettel bowed down to his car. Most humble 4X WDC ever.

    Maybe when Lewis grows up he can learn from Young Vettel.

  20. It’s a team sport so they will always do what’s best for the team. If they make the call for one driver then they need to do the same for both.

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