Civil war looming at Mercedes after team orders saga in Malaysia

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Parc Ferme after the malaysian GP
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in Parc Ferme after the malaysian GP

The Mercedes team’s German speaking faction has spoken out against the team orders that prevented Nico Rosberg from finishing on the podium and gifted Lewis Hamilton third place in Malaysia.

Rosberg pleaded over the radio to be let past his new British teammate Hamilton on Sunday, who was saving fuel to the finish.

Team boss Ross Brawn answered repeatedly, “Negative Nico, negative. Lewis’ pace is what we’re asking him to do. He could go a lot faster as well.”

Afterwards – but before Hamilton admitted on the podium that he was uncomfortable about finishing third – Rosberg told strategist Brawn on the radio to “Remember this one.”
It was a saga not unnoticed by Mercedes’ newly-arrived Austrian shareholders and bosses Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff, who were not amused.

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battle it out
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton battle it out

Wolff agreed: “From a sporting point of view, that’s not what we want to see.”

“From a sporting perspective, that was wrong,” Lauda told German television RTL. “They should have let him (Rosberg) go. We need to talk to Ross, if this is the strategy to be used from now on.”

Brawn, whose role as team boss is believed threatened by the Austrian duo and also the likely arrival of McLaren’s Paddy Lowe, is understood to have defended the ‘team order’ on the basis that Rosberg was also low on fuel.

Rosberg denied: “I did not have to save fuel. Everything was alright. I will sit down together with Ross to rethink whether this was really the right decision.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium. Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 24 March 2013.
Lewis Hamilton was subdued on the Sepang podium

The 27-year-old’s rationale is that, with tyres in good shape and fuel in the tank, he might have been able to chase down the leading Red Bulls.

According to Auto Motor und Sport, 1996 world champion Damon Hill agreed: “He might at least have been able to hurry the Red Bulls into a tyre problem.”

Rosberg added: “I don’t know if I would have gotten the Red Bulls. But I felt good at the time. I was doing well and would have liked to see how far I could have gone.”

Justifying his anger on the radio, he explained: “I tried to get them to reconsider their decision.”

But Rosberg denied Red Bull figure Helmut Marko’s claim that the episode demonstrates that Lewis Hamilton is Mercedes’ obvious number one driver.

“I can understand how this (episode) creates that impression,” Rosberg responded, “but I am sure that if I had been in front, the decision would have been the same.” (GMM)