Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff insists the team are comfortable with Lewis Hamilton’s decision to ignore team orders on his way to third place in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Having started from the pit lane following an engine fire in qualifying, Hamilton stormed through to finish on the podium, one place ahead of team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.
The German, who leads the drivers’ championship by 11 points at the halfway point in the season, had been on pole but found himself behind Hamilton after a split in strategies.
With Rosberg on fresher rubber Mercedes asked Hamilton to let his team-mate pass in order to make his three-stop strategy work – but the 2008 world champion maintained his track position.
It proved to be a good decision as Hamilton took third with Rosberg closing in on the Briton in the final laps at the Hungaroring but having to settle for fourth.
Hamilton said afterwards he was “very, very shocked” at the call to move over, with Wolff admitting he understood the stance of his driver – and now he has revealed the team is fine with the decision.
“When the safety car came out, we chose to split the strategies, and offset ourselves to the cars ahead, in order to create opportunities to win, or worst case finish on the podium,” Wolff said in a question and answer session on the Mercedes website.
“When we did so, Nico was running two positions in front of Lewis. We put Nico on to an aggressive three-stopper and Lewis on to a two-stop, with a long final stint on the prime tyre.
“That meant they would find each other on track at some point – and we would have a situation to manage. Lewis was asked to let Nico pass because we believed they both still had a chance to win the race as the strategies played out.
“But Nico never got close enough to Lewis to make the move – and we were ultimately comfortable with the decision Lewis made to hold position.”
Wolff also said the team spirit will not be damaged by the events in Hungary but that Mercedes want to address a number of reliability issues before the season continues in Belgium after the summer break so that their drivers can compete in a fair fight for the title.
“At the start of the season, Paddy (Lowe, technical director) and I agreed a clear policy with the drivers that they are free to race for the win – as long as they are fighting for it,” he added.
“Equally, we have been clear that our priority as a team is always to give ourselves the best chance of winning the race – no matter which driver is fighting for it. The calls Paddy and the team (made) on the pit wall on Sunday were completely in line with our policy.
“And so, our drivers will continue to be free to race for the remainder of the 2014 championship; and they will be racing to win. However, we should also be clear-sighted about the situation: this debate about team orders is obscuring our real problem at the moment, which is reliability.
“If we give the drivers the opportunity to use the full potential of the car on every lap, then we have the performance to race at the front of the field – and they will be free to race for the win without external factors playing a role.
“We haven’t done that recently and that has given us some headaches. But those problems can be avoided if we do a better job.”
A brake problem saw Hamilton crash out of qualifying in Germany, with Roseberg also struggling with a less serious issue during the Hungary race – with Hamilton’s engine fire also preventing him from battling for pole position.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was again the man on hand to take the victory in Hungary as the Mercedes stumbled, just as he had done in Canada when faulty brakes again caused Hamilton to retire and an MGU-K energy recovery system issue meant Rosberg had to nurse his car home. (PRESS ASSOCIATION)