Abu Dhabi: Mercedes’ celebrations over Nico Rosberg’s first world title have been overshadowed by “anarchy” between the world champion and Lewis Hamilton.
Some reports have said the team could even punish the Briton for slowing down the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday in the hope that arch-rival teammate Rosberg could be overtaken and lose the title.
Hamilton twice rejected team instructions to speed up as Rosberg came under threat from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff said “It’s very simple: anarchy does not work in any team and in any company. A precedent has been set.”
According to Wolff, Mercedes will “look at the overall situation and say ‘what does it mean?’ Everything is possible.
“Maybe we want to give them more freedom next year, or go with the harsher side where we feel the values were not respected. I am not sure yet where my finger is going to point or the needle is going to go.”
Hamilton’s behaviour and future relationship with Rosberg will be only one of a host of new challenges next season when Formula One ushers in a raft of rule changes and faster cars.
With the sport now owned by US giant Liberty Media, the prospect of its number one box office attraction leaving the champion team is not likely.
Wolff may be more worried by the prospect of a revived challenge from Red Bull and Ferrari after the rules are changed.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner has made clear he believes his team will mount a serious title bid next year.
“It’s been an amazing season,” Horner said.
“Our expectations at the beginning of the year were to get in the top-five so as to emerge as the nearest challenger to Mercedes.”
Things went far better than that. The team ended “second in the constructors, won two grands prix, in Barcelona, Max the youngest ever winner in F1, Daniel achieving a one-two finish in Malaysia plus 14 other podiums, it’s been an incredible year for us,” said Horner.
“There’s no guarantees, Mercedes will be firmly the favourites next year, again, but we’re hoping to close that gap down and hopefully during the course of next year take the challenge to them.”
The 2017 season will see heavier, faster cars, by up to five seconds a lap, with wider wings and tyres. Many paddock observers believe this will give Red Bull’s highly-rated designer Adrian Newey a chance to create another race-winning machine.
Horner believes the changes will up the pressure on Mercedes, who have won the last three drivers’ and constructors’ championships following an era of Red Bull domination when four-time champion Vettel won his titles.
Mercedes won 19 of this year’s record 21 races with Red Bull winning the other two races, one by Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who became the youngest race winner in history, and one from Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
But at the end of the year, Red Bull were nearly 300 points adrift of the dominant Silver Arrows — a result that hit hopes for a more competitive championship to stop the fall in television viewing figures. Official reports indicate the sport has lost 200 million viewers since 2008.
Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone believes two shorter races should be considered as a replacement for one longer event, following a spike in viewing for the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Horner, and others prefer a more traditional approach. “I think there’s only one Wimbledon final or one grand slam final. Two races, I don’t think is the way to go, you just need to make the one race a good one.”
With Hamilton determined to get ahead of Rosberg again, new rules, faster cars and unrest about the sport’s structure, Formula One’s future may take many twists next season.