Abu Dhabi: Great rivalries make F1 history and can the sport survive without one? That is the question one should be asking after witnessing the close desert duel on Sunday.
The F1 world can keep debating on whether it was unfair on the part of Lewis Hamilton to slow down to allow rivals to close in on Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg during a tense title-decider at the Yas Marina Circuit on Sunday.
But the fact is, most F1 buffs wanted to see something like that and knowing Hamilton the character, millions across the globe would have tuned in for the finale. And for those at the circuit, the tense battle would have given the adrenaline rush that one longs for from racing — giving more than their money’s worth.
It is because of these ruthless drivers like Hamilton, who don’t hold back anything to make their presence felt, the Formula One sport is alive despite the stereotypical domination of the same teams.
What Hamilton did on Sunday was exactly what a race driver should do in a scenario where he has no other option left to revive his fate. Carve out a way to rewrite history, and had Hamilton been able to do that, the same critics would have been forced to laud him.
Refusing to adhere to the instruction from the Mercedes hierarchy and putting the team’s agenda of winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in jeopardy may see some disciplinary action against Hamilton — at least to show the world who is the boss here. But the fact is, the Mercedes is also aware of what can be expected of the Briton in such a scenario.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes head of motorsport, was straightaway in the firing line of the scribes and asked how he saw the move from the Briton. “Undermining a structure in public means you are putting yourself before the team. It is very simple. Anarchy does not work in any team and in any company,” said Wolff, without mincing words but immediately added that he doesn’t want to call the whip on the driver straight away.
“The other half of me says, it was Lewis’ only chance of winning the championship at the stage and maybe you cannot demand a racing driver that is one of the best, if not the best out there, to comply in a situation where his instincts cannot make him comply.
“It is about finding a solution as to how to solve that in the future because a precedent has been set. Let me sleep overnight and come up with a solution,” added Wolff, whose team has reached the heights, thanks to Hamilton’s 32 wins from his 53 race wins with the Silver Arrows since joining in 2013.
Hamilton may have deliberately slowed down on the track but he was in no mood the step his foot off the pedal. “I don’t think I did anything dangerous today, or unfair. We’re fighting for a world championship, I was in the lead of the race, so I control the pace. That’s the rules.
“For me, I’m in the position where I’ve had a lot of points lost during the season so I’m out there fighting, and I generally never try to do anything to harm the team. But we had already won the constructors’ championship so today it was down to me and Nico, and the team still felt they needed to interfere,” said Hamilton adding, “I don’t know why they didn’t just let us race.”
The Briton went on to further defend his move, saying that the race lead was actually taking him away from the ‘championship’.
“There was never a moment I felt I was going to lose the race. I don’t really have much to say to them, to be honest. There was never a moment I felt I was at risk,” said Hamilton, who completed 10 victories this season.
As far as Nico Rosberg goes, he will be the last man complaining. He has virtually grown up seeing Hamilton’s antics and hence showed the character in dealing with the situation wisely all through the tense weekend.
“Yeah, for sure, it feels like I’ve been racing him (Hamilton) forever and always he’s just managed to edge me out and get the title even when we were small in go-karts.
“And he’s just an amazing driver and of course one of the best in history, so it’s unbelievably special to beat him because the level is so high and that makes this even more ... for sure, so much more satisfying for me because the benchmark is so ... and I took the World Championship away from him which is a phenomenal feeling,” said Rosberg.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was critical about Hamilton’s action as he was heard on radio saying, “It was a difficult situation in the end with Lewis playing some dirty tricks.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, however, voiced his support to Hamilton saying, “Of course, I would have done the same as him and it was really good for me. It was his only chance with one or two more laps ... Lewis was trying everything he could.”
Hamilton’s action has invited repercussions and he must have been well aware that his ploy could backfire but having tried to do so, he has only made the sport emerge as a winner!