Hamilton defies Mercedes orders to set F1 season alight
British driver takes third place in Hungary after refusing to let team mate past
Simmering tensions within the Mercedes team appeared to boil over at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton disobeyed team orders and refused to let team-mate Nico Rosberg overtake him.
Despite the fact that Mercedes were, for once, knocked off top spot by Red Bull and Ferrari, the German team still stole the headlines thanks to the incident in the second half of the race as Hamilton refused to yield to his stable mate.
Rosberg had started the race on pole position, but on the 48th lap found himself in fourth place behind Hamilton after two safety car incidents in a wet and dry race.
The German was running a different strategy to Hamilton and still had one pit stop to make. Mercedes also believed that Rosberg had a chance of winning the race and ordered Hamilton to let Rosberg through so he could put in some fast laps before the stop.
Three times Hamilton refused. "In 12 pulsating minutes, Lewis Hamilton transformed the theme of this World Championship into 'every man for himself'. He defied his team, thwarted an angry team-mate and completed a minor miracle," says Kevin Eason of The Times of the British driver's third-place finish.
Mercedes team principle Toto Wolff said afterwards that things were "intense" between the two drivers and said he needed to "discuss the racing" between the pair.
"Before the season, Mercedes team bosses Wolff and Paddy Lowe mapped out with their drivers a plan for how they would approach races," reports Andrew Benson of the BBC. "They made it clear they wanted them to race freely, but that the team's priorities came first. Details of the agreement were never revealed, but it seems part of it was that one driver would allow the other to pass if they were on divergent strategies to allow each to maximise their own chances."
That approach no longer appears "sustainable" he adds.
Hamilton defended his stance, pointing out that he was racing against Rosberg and that he would have had to slow down to comply with the orders. "If I had let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away. I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that so that he could better his position," said Hamilton. "I wasn't going to ease off and lose ground to Fernando [Alonso] or Daniel [Ricciardo] to let him overtake. I thought that was a bit strange."
Rosberg "was diplomatic in his words but visibly irritated after the race", says Daniel Johnson of the Daily Telegraph, who agrees that Mercedes will have to draw up "fresh rules of engagement" for their drivers.
By holding off Rosberg, Hamilton gained ground on him in the drivers’ championship and the German now has an 11-point lead over the Briton.
The race itself, made thrilling by the changing conditions, was won by Ricciardo for Red Bull who took the lead from Alonso with two laps to go. The Ferrari man then held off Hamilton to take second, with Hamilton in turn keeping Rosberg at bay to secure his place on the podium.