A second coming together between Mercedes’ drivers has left the team in a difficult position heading to this weekend’s British Grand Prix.
On Sunday in Austria, Mercedes were denied a one-two finish when contact between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg saw the German drop back to fourth in the standings while Hamilton was able to claim the race win.
The incident follows far too closely on from the drama in Spain in May when, having dominated throughout the build-up, the two Silver Arrows drivers collided on the first lap, with both drivers forced to retire.
Speaking after the race at the Red Bull Ring, team principal Toto Wolff called the contact “brainless” and conceded that team orders could now be a possibility.
“The only consequence is to look at all the options available on the table, and one option is to freeze the order of a certain stage in the race,” said the German.
“It’s unpopular, makes me puke myself because I like to see them race, but if the racing is not possible without contact, then that’s the consequence.”
It’s not only that Wolff detests team orders that is interesting in his last statement, but also that a mind shift has taken place. Wolff admitted that “racing is not possible without contact”, a fact that he did not believe to be true following the calamity in Spain.
He added: “In Barcelona, I was much easier with it because we had 30 races without any collision, it was clear it was eventually going to happen, it wiped out both cars.
“From my naïve thinking, I said to myself ‘Okay, that’s it, they’ve learned their lesson, they’ve seen the consequences and it’s not going to happen any more’. But here we go, it happens again.”
And Mercedes are right that it will happen again.
In Hamilton and Rosberg they have two fiercely competitive drivers who will not give an inch – no top driver worth his salt would. However, what adds further fuel to the flames is Rosberg’s desire to at last get one over Hamilton and win the World Championship he so desperately craves, proving along the way that he is on par with his childhood friend.
Both times the Mercedes have come together this season, it has followed a Rosberg error. In Spain, one could say that Hamilton was at fault, but in Austria, it was Rosberg’s refusal to accept that his team-mate had pipped him at the post that resulted in their collision.
So, Mercedes have two drivers who won’t yield – what now?
There appear to be only two options:
1. The drivers agree to play nice (there will have to be consequences if they don’t)
2. Team orders will come into play
One would imagine that it’s option one which the team will turn to first; it’s the best things for the team, the drivers, and the sport. But will it be successful?
It’s hard to conceive that the pair will risk treading on the toes of their superiors further at Silverstone this weekend, but when the red mist descends and in the heat of battle, anything is possible.
For Rosberg, there is so much more than just points at stake and that will always see the German react with a degree of emotion that may cause him to cross the line. If he does so again though, it may be the last time he has the chance.
Would team orders do the trick?
With Hamilton closing in on his team-mate at the stop of the standings (the gap is now just 11 points), Rosberg can no longer claim to be the team’s number one title challenger and so team orders are an even more complex quagmire than they would usually be.
Should the team decide to adopt team orders, will they do so on a race by race basis or will they back one of the charges to go all the way? Neither option is an appealing one.
Hamilton and Rosberg have conspired to put their own team in an unwanted position, and it’s up to the pair to come to their senses and start racing for the team and not just themselves. They owe that to all those who have helped provide them with a Championship-winning car.
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