Tuesday 21 January 2020

Ordering Hamilton to submit like assassinating an artist

Favouritism won't wash with F1 fans wise to injustice

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 27, 2014. Ricciardo won the race Hamilton placed third. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia celebrates after winning the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 27, 2014. Ricciardo won the race Hamilton placed third. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

David Kennedy

Despite Mercedes winning nine of the 11 races in part one of the season (Daniel Ricciardo won the other two), we still can't be certain who will be crowned 2014 Formula One world champion.

That one of two drivers will take the crown is looking inevitable, baring anything calamitous happening in Part II when racing resumes on August 24 in Spa, Belgium.

In the silver corner you have Nico Rosberg, who is 11 points ahead of his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who's in the opposite corner, which is also silver.

Were it down to raw speed, the righteous winner would be 
Hamilton. But that's not to 
discredit Rosberg, who is looking rock solid. This sort of profile wins championships.

Hamilton, on the other hand, has more edge, is more determined in combat and is the ultimate racer. However, these noble traits don't always ensure a title.

Round two of this boxing match in Hungary last weekend got a bit personal before the bell was sounded. We were treated to a defiant Hamilton, who refused team orders to allow Rosberg to overtake him. Racing to order is legitimate in certain conditions, but Hamilton let it be known that he was never going to accede at this stage in the game. And who would blame him? This title could feasibly be decided on the smallest of margins and fighting for every point will make a difference.

Mercedes might have a preference for a German to front their title win now that Rosberg has exceeded their expectations, but on the other hand, they hardly hired Hamilton in order to deprive him of a second title? He certainly didn't join the marque to play second fiddle.

It does make you wonder why the teams don't have some coded message which throws others off the shenanigans scent, such as "Lima Hotel, we've detected water in the tool box", or if that falls on deaf ears the back-up could be "you're fired Lewis if you don't move over" as Ferrari effectively told Rubens Barrichello in the Austrian GP in 2002.

To get to F1 is a miracle in itself, to be with a race-winning team is the stuff of dreams and to be in the position to win a world title is up there in the realms of fantasy. To be deprived of an equal fight at that level is to undermine the very essence of who you are. To unravel the fabric of a talent that has been honed and tuned over years is to be nothing more than the assassin of an artist. This is not in any way comparable to Ferrari asking race leader Barrichello to submit to 
Michael Schumacher in 2002, who, in fairness, didn't occupy the top step of the podium in deference to his team-mate's humiliation. Nor is it akin to Red Bull asking Mark Webber to slow down for Sebastian Vettel at the Turkish GP in 2010.

This is one of the top three drivers in Formula One being asked to move over for his team-mate when both men are fighting tooth and nail for the title. I don't believe Mercedes boss Toto Wolff would contemplate manipulating the end result when both drivers are locked in a battle that has made F1 a fantastic spectacle this season.

Having started from the pit road in Hungary, Hamilton finished the race in third place, one place ahead of his pole position team-mate. His decision to ignore that order was utterly vindicated. He should never have been asked in the first place. Mercedes need to watch themselves for any hint of favouritism because it won't cut with F1 fans, whose eyes and ears are like antennas for injustice.

At least Hamilton has Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda on his side as the former triple world champion defended the Englishman's stance and blamed the team's panic for the order issued.

What a fine win for Ricciardo, who took advantage of the safety car holding up the leaders. Being a great racing driver involves a number of things and this sort of opportunism is created by skill, not luck. It was a fantastic achievement and a great boost for Red Bull. How tantalisingly close Fernando Alonso came to winning his first race of the season. Just three laps from the chequered flag, his worn-out soft Pirellis just couldn't hold the Aussie off any longer. It was a heroic effort by the Ferrari driver.

At the risk of sounding like Mercedes, in the supporting GP3 event, Status GP turned a first and third on the grid into a first and second in the main race on Saturday. Second on the grid was Alex Lynn, our Theodore-backed winner in Macau last year. Team Principle Teddy Yip was present to witness an even greater glory for his team than was had at Silverstone. Once again Richie Stanaway prevailed and Nick Yelloly was runner up. There were no team orders! All these points have brought Richie to second in the championship behind Lynn. It's a nice way to wrap up the first half of the season, but the championship is ultra-competitive and keeping that up will be the next challenge in Spa, Monza, Sochi in Russia and, finally, at Yas Marina in the UAE.

In a Q&A in Autosport this week, Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne, who had an excellent race in Hungary, was asked: "Who has been your biggest rival?" The Frenchman replied: "I have two rivals and I can't decide who was the strongest: Robert Wickens or Daniel Ricciardo." Wickens pipped Vergne to win the World Series by Renault in 2011. Ricciardo, the Hungarian GP winner, finished fifth in that title fight, albeit he missed four races.

Wickens, who is currently racing in DTM, is contracted to Maple Leaf, a driver management company owned by Teddy Yip. It begs the question, how long before F1 teams wake up to the talent that should rightfully occupy an F1 seat, particularly in view of Ricciardo's dominance over his four-times world champion team-mate Vettel?

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