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2014 F1

Mercedes leaves drivers free to race

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Rethink follows Hamilton’s refusal to let teammate past

Toto Wolff, the Mercedes executive director, has implemented a new code of conduct regarding team orders for their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Wolff was forced to act following events at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month when Hamilton was told to let Rosberg overtake him.

With the drivers running third and fourth at the time, and with 20 laps of the race left, their differing strategies forced the pit wall crew at Mercedes into what non-executive chairman Niki Lauda described as “a panic”.

With Rosberg in pole position, early crashes and safety car periods had resulted in Mercedes opting for an aggressive three-stop plan.

But with Hamilton starting from the pit lane and last on track at the end of lap one, the delays propelled him into a fight for a podium place, so two stops was preferred.

However, he declined to let Rosberg past when told to do so, citing the fact the German was never close enough to make an overtaking manoeuvre. The teammates eventually finished third and fourth, allowing Hamilton to close the gap on Rosberg in the drivers’ standings to 11 points.

Wolff told German newspaper Bild the drivers would be free to race in the remaining eight grands prix, but said: “We will augment our team agreement that the driver behind must clearly show he is faster before a passing manoeuvre can be instructed.

“No one should have to go off the gas. Our drivers are allowed to freely compete for the rest of the season when it comes to the victory.”

Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso believes Mercedes to be the surprise of the Formula One season – and now the benchmark for Ferrari to aspire to.

Come the start of the campaign, rumours implied Mercedes had adapted more to the new regulations compared to fellow power-train suppliers Ferrari and Renault.

But it is fair to assume no one expected Mercedes to blow away their rivals as they have done this season and usurp Red Bull as the force to beat.

From the 11 grands prix over the first period of the season, Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have claimed 10 poles and won nine races between them.

With eight grands prix to run once F1 returns from its summer break later this month, it is simply a question of when and not if Mercedes will win the constructors’ championship and one of their drivers the main prize.

“Mercedes have surprised everybody,” said double world champion Alonso.

“Now we are getting used to seeing them dominate every weekend, but I remember when we were in Jerez and Bahrain testing these new cars with very complex technology.

“We were all struggling, but straight away they were okay, and now from 11 races they’ve won nine and nearly always been on the front row.”

Alonso – with two podiums so far – and Ferrari have nothing much to play for other than being the best of the rest, albeit with the determination to one day soon be battling Mercedes for honours.

“Mercedes are motivation for us,” added Alonso.

“We know we can do a much better job as we haven’t done a good one so far.

“We are making some progress, but the benchmark has changed – last year it was Red Bull, this year it’s Mercedes.

“We simply have to get on top of our problems and try to arrive at their level.”

-AP

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