During the Hungarian GP today, Lewis Hamilton was instructed over the team radio to allow his team-mate Nico Rosberg past him, the instruction was repeated a number of times but the British driver did not obey the order and remained ahead of the championship leader, Hamilton would finish 3rd with Rosberg just behind him.
At the end of lap 46 of the Grand Prix, Hamilton was told by engineer Pete Bonnigton that Rosberg was “on the option tyre, he has one more stop so don’t hold him up”
On lap 48, Hamilton said that he “couldn’t imagine these tyres lasting another 20 laps” which basically meant that if he was to pit again then he would be fighting Rosberg for on track position.
On lap 51, Rosberg asked on team radio “why is he not letting me through?” almost immediately after this, Hamilton was given the instruction to “let Nico past this lap, on the main start/finish straight” but with Rosberg around a second behind, if he was to do this then he would lose time in his chase of Ricciardo and Alonso.
Hamilton responded to the order by saying “I’m not slowing down for Nico, get close and then he can overtake me”
Rosberg didn’t get close and went into the pit, he would come out and closed on Hamilton again but couldn’t force his way through despite a late attempt in turns 2 and 3 which Hamilton forced Rosberg to the edge of the track with no way past.
I can fully understand why Mercedes would want to get Rosberg ahead of a Hamilton from a constructors point of view, they could have been looking at a double podium finish as supposed to P3 and P4 meaning they could have had 6 more points, so from the Mercedes perspective it would make sense to give the order.
However, the facts are that Mercedes are a long way clear of nearest challengers Red Bull, they have the fastest car and they will win the constructors championship with ease, the drivers championship is between their two drivers, so why give a team order that could have such a big impact on the drivers championship, if Hamilton had of obeyed the order, he would probably be leaving the Hungaroring with a 17 point disadvantage compared to what is now an 11 point gap.
Also, I would say that for Hamilton to let his championship rival through willingly would show weakness on his part and it would be something that could play on his mind throughout the summer break, by remaining ahead he showed mental strength that he will not be ordered and this ultimately could end up being a crucial factor in the title tussle.
I doubt that this will carry on into Belgium in a months time, Mercedes handled the controversy at Monaco in a proper fashion and I would expect them to do the same here, for them they will hope that briefings and internal discussions can sort out any potential problems or misunderstandings that this has caused.
It will be interesting to see at the end of the season whether this has made a difference in the outcome of the world championship, if the title is won by six points or less then we can say that the events in Hungary were crucial to the final standings.
It has echoes of the Multi-21 incident in Malaysia in 2012 where Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to pass Mark Webber and win the race, of course in that occasion it was an order discussed before the race that Vettel disobeyed, as supposed to a strategy meaning that it would be beneficial to give a car clear air as it was today.
I see it that Lewis Hamilton was perfectly entitled to do what he did today in the same way that Vettel was back in Kuala Lumpar, at the end of the day, Formula 1 is about close racing and pure racing, it may be a team sport but for me it is a better sport when the drivers are pushing each other to the limit with no orders or instructions involved.