What Do Mercedes Do Next?

Round 12 of the 2014 Formula One world championship may come to be seen as the pivotal point in the battle for the title. Nico Rosberg clashed with Lewis Hamilton for the the lead of the race on the second lap of the Belgian Grand Prix, forcing both men into unscheduled pit-stops which heavily compromised their races. Rosberg needed a new front wing, necessitating a pit stop which is longer than the usual stop for tyres only and went on to finish in second place.  The damage Hamilton’s car took meant his car lost a lot of downforce and grip, leaving him at the back of the pack and unable to catch even the stragglers Marussia and he voluntarily retired the car with a few laps remaining.

The clash between the Mercedes team-mates drew criticism of Rosberg from team personnel. Team boss Toto Wolff and non-executive chairman Niki Lauda both mentioned Rosberg as being at fault in interviews after the incident. The crowd loudly booed the German during the podium ceremony, boos which came from British fans said Rosberg in later interviews.

An internal team meeting was called for an hour after the race where the the two team-mates could air their grievances in a safe environment. Later that evening, Hamilton said that Rosberg stated in the meeting he had crashed into Hamilton to prove a point and Hamilton took that to mean he did it on purpose.

“We just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose,” said Hamilton.

“He said he could have avoided it. He said ‘I did it to prove a point’. He basically said I did it to prove a point.

“And you don’t have to just rely on me. Go and ask Toto [Wolff] and Paddy [Lowe] who are not happy with him as well.”

Rosberg was quick in issuing a denial in his post-race video blog which he does after each race.

“I’ve been told what Lewis said in the press. He stated his version of the events.

“All I can say is that my view of the event is very different, but it’s just better than I don’t now give all the details of my opinion. I hope you respect that. I prefer to keep it internal.”

The key in differentiating the two statements is Hamilton’s use of the word ‘basically’. It is often used to show a meaning which was never intended. Rosberg doing it “to prove a point” is more likely. In races this season, Hamilton has indulged in aggressive driving against his team-mate and Rosberg has let Hamilton pass at times where an accident between the drivers may have happened otherwise. In proving a point in last weekend’s crash, Rosberg was showing that he will no longer back down against Hamilton if the Englishman attempts an overtake. At the Bahrain GP, Hamilton and Rosberg were in a tussle for the lead mid-way through the race and it is likely that Rosberg is using this as part of his point.

Monaco was Rosberg's round but neither man was happy with the other

The team-mates have won may races this year between them in an intense contest

The animosity has been ebbing and flowing in parts this season. Hamilton’s win in Spain saw him use engine modes which he had not been instructed to use. This allowed his engine to have a higher power output than the chasing Rosberg, which won Hamilton the race.

The following race weekend in Monaco was the scene of an error from Rosberg in the final moments of qualifying which prevented Hamilton from having a final effort at starting the race from the pole position that Rosberg won. Pole is particularly crucial at Monaco due to the lack of overtaking chances at the very narrow track. Rosberg won the race. Hamilton declared that the two drivers, who have known each other since their early teens, were not on speaking terms and no longer friends.

Hungary’s race had Hamilton refusing to let Rosberg through after his team had ordered him to do so. Neither man won the race but Hamilton finished ahead of Rosberg, a result which may not have been the case had the order been obeyed.

Mercedes have had a car which has been the class of the field this season. They have enjoyed an advantage over their rivals even greater than  that which Red Bull held at times in the past four years. Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have been allowed to openly race and battle each other on the race track much to the pleasure of the public,  when other teams may have been stricter, only allowing their drivers to race up to a certain point of the race, or even not after the first corner and that who ever led from pole was not to be challenged by his team-mate.

Red Bull's Smiling Assassin has won three races this season

Red Bull’s Smiling Assassin has won three races this season

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has out-scored both Mercedes drivers over the summer as various car failures and incidents have meant that the German team do not have as strong of a lead in the driver’s championship with either man as they should have. The likable Australian may be over 60 points behind the championship-leading Rosberg but he has won all three of the races won by a non-Mercedes car this year and is there to pick up any pieces dropped by Mercedes.

From here, Mercedes would still need a number of accidents for Red Bull to have a realistic chance at title glory as the Mercedes still has a healthy advantage at the head of the grid and in the Constructor’s World Championship which is very close to being won. Both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are sure to go full throttle until it is no longer possible for win the championship and this is where the accidents can and have happened. McLaren lost the driver’s world title in 2007 as team-mates Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were so intent on beating each other, they allowed Kimi Raikkonen to win a championship which should never have been lost to Ferrari.

It is through the management of such situations from the Mercedes bosses Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe that will ensure Mercedes close this season out and for one of their driver’s to be 2014 world champion.

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