‘Anarchy’ as Lewis Hamilton's decision to defy Mercedes team orders upsets management
Briton wins Abu Dhabi Grand Prix but missed out retaining the world title as teammate Nico Rosberg secured the podium finish he needed
Lewis Hamilton may have driven himself into trouble with his Mercedes team after defying direct orders near the end of Sunday’s gripping Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the British driver lost his title to teammate Nico Rosberg in a nerve-shredding finale.
Hamilton won the race but needed Rosberg to finish outside of the top three in order to retain his title.
In order to further this bid, he used a technique known as backing up designed to slow Rosberg down and allow pursuing drivers Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and Dutch teen Max Verstappen of Red Bull to catch up.
Had they both overtaken Rosberg, then Hamilton’s win would have been enough for the title.
Vettel and Verstappen were right on Rosberg’s tail in the closing stages as Hamilton refused to accelerate – even after Mercedes asked him twice.
First of all, Hamilton ignored a race engineer’s request for him to speed up and then even rebuffed executive director Paddy Lowe’s explicit order to speed up.
“I’m in the lead right now,” he responded to Lowe. “I’m quite comfortable where I am.”
Wolff described Loew’s intervention as “the highest escalation [procedure] we have.”
Watch: Nico Rosberg talk about his battle with Lewis Hamilton
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 27, 2016
And he appeared to issue a warning, saying: “Anarchy doesn’t work in any team or any company. Undermining a structure in public means you’re putting yourself before the team.”
Asked if Hamilton could face punishment, Wolff said: “I need to form an opinion, which I haven’t yet” and “everything’s possible.”
Rosberg’s view, though, was diplomatic as the new world champion said: You can understand the team’s perspective and you can understand Lewis’ perspective. So that’s it.”
Mercedes wanted Hamilton to speed up because it was concerned that Vettel was gaining ground and could have won the race.
Read: Lewis Hamilton’s letter to his fans following the race in Abu Dhabi
2016 has had its ups, and it's definitely had its downs. But today, as much as I wanted that championship, I am so proud of my performance this weekend, and the last few weekends passed. I want to thank you #TeamLH so much for your support this year, and every year. You are unbelievable and your support means the world to me. To my team, thank you for your hard work that's won us the constructors championship 3yrs in a row. The circumstances this year have not been in my favour, but I did my best and am happy with how the season ended. I'll be back stronger, and faster than ever next year. God bless. LH x @vvorsicphoto
A photo posted by Lewis Hamilton (@lewishamilton) on Nov 27, 2016 at 11:24am PST
Hamilton was totally unapologetic over the incident and instead, he openly complained about what he considered to be overly zealous interference.
“I don’t know why they just didn’t let us just race. There was never a moment where I thought I was going to lose the race,” Hamilton said. “It’s a bit of a shame they wouldn’t [just let us race]. It’s clear [what] their thought process [is].
Tensions builds as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton agree to disagree over reasons for crew swap ahead of crucial Abu Dhabi GP
“We had already won the constructors’ championship, so it was down to me and Nico today. However, they still felt that they needed to make comments. I’m in a position where I’ve had a lot of points lost in the season, so for me I’m out there fighting.”
Hamilton’s latest reference to lost points is a continuation of previous complaints throughout the season with regards to the engine problems that cost him vital points. None more so than during the Malaysian GP, when his engine failed as he was closing in on an easy victory.
“When I look back on the season, if there’s anything to be negative about [it] would be cars failing in certain places,” Hamilton said before the race. “[With the same engine] as the car that wouldn’t stop during testing.”
Hamilton had also brought up another issue that still rankles with him.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff warns of volcano waiting to erupt between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
Prior to the start of the season, Mercedes swapped several mechanics around from each side of the garage in a bid to end the divide that had been growing between the two drivers’ groups.
“You’ll have to buy my book...down the line...in 10 years’ time when I tell you exactly what happened,” the British driver said. “It will be an interesting read.”
In the immediate future, it will also be interesting to see how Mercedes handles this latest incident with Hamilton now that the season is over.