Just as the flames between championship contenders Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are flaring up to an all-time high, F1 goes into its mid-season break until late next month.
But will the holiday period have a cooling effect on one of the most heated intra-team battles since Senna and Prost, or will the month off give the duo more time to stew inside the Mercedes pressure cooker until an explosion at Spa- Francorchamps, when racing resumes on August 24?
Points leader Rosberg, whose lead was cut to 11 points in Hungary last weekend, seems to think closed-door discussions are necessary in the down time.
“I’m not so excited about going into the summer break,” said the German after finishing fourth and behind his teammate on Sunday. “We have to discuss internally. That’s the best way forward for us as a team.”
Rosberg started from pole position in Budapest, while Hamilton started from pit lane after his car caught fire in qualifying. But what looked to be another easy maximum points haul for Nico in the race’s early stages turned into a fight back from mid-pack after safety car periods turned the race into disarray. Hamilton was able to leap-frog his teammate in the confusion, while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel (who finished 7th) and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas (8th) were early podium contenders who also lost out by not managing to pit in time during the first safety car period.
But the real drama came when Lewis ignored a request from his team to let pass Nico, who was quicker at the time on a different strategy. The Briton was later outspoken about his decision to overlook the instruction.
WHY THEY HIRED ME
“It’s not questioning authority,” he said after lucking out in the lottery of safety-car periods to make up 22 positions to finish third.
“I’m hired to race and bring in points for the team. I’m also hired to be me and race my heart out.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo won for the second time this year (he’s the only driver to have beaten the Mercs) after a great display of tyre preservation, while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso took second on an ill-handling set of old rubber. If Hamilton had obeyed his orders early on, it is very likely Rosberg would have been in a position to fight for second place.
Either way, Mercedes needs to resolve reliability problems in order for its two drivers to fight for the drivers’ championship fairly. Its cars have suffered from gearbox, brakes, electronics and fuel line maladies on six occasions this year, in spite of having almost secured the constructors’ championship.
Team boss Toto Wolff said after Hungary that the team may need to reappraise its approach on team orders. “At the moment, we have a 170-point advantage in the constructors’ championship and maybe it is a moment of loosening it a bit, in agreement with both of them.”
But agreement’s not a word Nico and Lewis are familiar with…