Formula 1 is heading to Austin this week and there isn’t much to say really about the sport any more. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes leads Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by a 67-point margin in the drivers championship, meaning the German has to pull off blinders every race from now on and Lewis should have misfortunes for the former to even have a sniff at the championship.
Mercedes also lead Ferrari in the constructors championship by a considerable margin and it all seems a bit too mundane really, like in the days of Michael Schumacher while he was winning for Ferrari.
But there is one thing I would like to discuss and that is team orders. There have been many debates over the years about team orders and here is one more.
Valtteri Bottas, another Mercedes driver, had been struggling to find his rhythm since the beginning of the championship. He came close to a win at Baku (Azerbaijan) but a debris caused a puncture in the last lap, allowing his team mate to take victory.
He could have gone for the win at Qatar where he was clearly faster than Hamilton but did not find the pace to pass Vettel. Thereafter, his performances have been adequate and in F1, good is never good enough.
Came Russia, a track where the Finn scored his first win a year ago and he was scorching the time sheets. Hamilton had no answer to Bottas’ prowess on the track. But in the race, things changed. The ugly face of team orders surfaced once again. Mercedes ordered Bottas to let Hamilton by because they had found a blister on one of his rear tyres that would potentially lead to Vettel passing him and thus ruining the championship.
Bottas let him by, hoping for a swap by the end of the race, for the victory was his. But that wasn’t the case and Mercedes faced flak for taking such a decision. Team boss Toto Wolff said he will sit down with Bottas after the race. Later, he told the media that Bottas had stopped them from giving him any explanation and went on to say that he understands.
Indeed the move worked for Mercedes and now Hamilton leads Vettel comfortably, thanks to Bottas playing the wingman at Suzuka a couple of weeks back.
Sure, Ferrari and Vettel have made mistakes for their part, which also contributed to Hamilton hauling such an advantage, but what Mercedes did, in my view, is butcher the sport to satisfy their desperation to win.
You see, a team always states that it is always focussed on the constructors championship and not the drivers championship. But that is simply not true because no matter in which position the two team drivers finish, the points will be the same.
But Hamilton was allowed to win, which he termed as a ‘strange feeling’, robbing Bottas of his honours. Yes, many would argue that it is right to do so. But really? Is that how one of the biggest teams in the biggest spectacle of motor racing going to run their races?
In Toto’s point of view, he would rather be the bad man now and win the championship instead of losing it by one point. But isn’t that the whole point of sport? Anything can happen in sport and it is imperative that anything is allowed to happen in sport. If a team decisively churns out the outcome of a race, then there is no point in speaking about fair play.
Toto Wolff stated that Bottas knows he has to perform well from the start next year, meaning he will not allow for any wonderful upsets later on in the year. That means F1 will be boring as it is now.
You know what I think? I think Hamilton has one victory in his bag that was pinched from Bottas and that win, while he wins the championship, will just keep reminding him that he was given the title and did not earn it. You cannot have it both ways.