London - Nico Rosberg has fuelled the debate over Lewis Hamilton’s failure to follow team orders during Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix by saying his rival’s behaviour was “not good.”
Rosberg, the world championship leader, is not the most outspoken driver so his careful criticism of Hamilton is noteworthy.
Speaking as the debate over the rights and wrongs of the incident widened, Rosberg said: “Lewis didn’t let me by although he was ordered to, so that’s obviously not good, and we need to discuss that internally.”
The origins of the dispute lie in the eight laps when Rosberg was a place behind Hamilton. The Brit was asked three times by the Mercedes hierarchy to let his team-mate through. That was because Rosberg was on a different strategy that could, according to boss Toto Wolff, have allowed him to win. Hamilton refused.
The message was passed on to Hamilton by his race engineer Peter Bonnington, who was conveying the instruction coming from the technical director-cum-team principal Paddy Lowe.
In similar circumstances last year - in Malaysia - it was Ross Brawn, then team principal, who told Rosberg to hold position. His voice came over the radio firmly, and Rosberg complied with the instruction even though it cost him third place.
The incident on Sunday highlights doubts as to whether Lowe and Wolff, who is meant to be in charge of the team’s commercial wing but is their spokesman on most matters, are providing the right kind of leadership.
It is questionable whether Lowe was even right to ask Hamilton to move, something he seemed to doubt himself given he did not go on the radio to issue the order and withdrew the instruction after the third attempt, undermining his authority in the process.
Niki Lauda, Mercedes F1 chairman, admitted they panicked into asking Hamilton to give way.
John Watson, a five-time grand prix winner, said: “I don’t see anyone at Mercedes with the authority, credibility and gravitas that Brawn had. Brawn emphatically said: ‘No. Hold position,’ in Malaysia. It is not just what you say, it is the way you say it and it is the person who says it.
“Is Toto Wolff more interested in projecting himself? Does he really have the authority? Paddy Lowe is a fantastic guy, but he is not the person to deal with this. Lauda is a very clever man, but I don’t know what authority he has. If there was one person who could kick ass in that team, it is the person that they let go, Ross.”
Mercedes has said it will draw up new guidelines for the rest of the season’s racing, which resumes in Spa on August 24.
HIRED TO RACE
Hamilton, who trails Rosberg by 11 points, defended his behaviour, saying: “It is not a matter of questioning authority. I am hired to race and bring in points. I am also hired to race my heart out.
“It was just a case of not giving a single point away. I don’t think I was being ruthless. I was not even being bloody minded. I did not cost Nico a win. I was racing against him. Why would I be concerned for him?”