Mercedes Duo Free To Race 'Hard'

Saturday 30th August 2014

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Toto has brought an end to Proving-a-point-gate

Toto has brought an end to Proving-a-point-gate

Mercedes may have lost a nailed on 1-2 at Spa, but they're still giving the viewing public what F1 desperately needs.

The decision by Mercedes to allow their drivers to continue to race each other hard will come as a huge relief to TV executives around the world. The Nico vs Lewis Show has become big box office (though obviously not for the paying punter at Hockenheim) and now fans know they won't be denied their latest instalment at Monza.

After a meeting at the team's Brackley HQ on Friday with Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, the Press steam cranked out the following statement.

"Toto Wolff, Paddy Lowe, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton met today in the boardroom of Mercedes AMG Petronas headquarters in Brackley to discuss the events of the Belgian Grand Prix.

"During this meeting, Nico acknowledged his responsibility for the contact that occurred on lap two of the Belgian Grand Prix and apologised for this error of judgement.

"Suitable disciplinary measures have been taken for the incident.

"Mercedes-Benz remains committed to hard, fair racing because this is the right way to win world championships. It is good for the team, for the fans and for Formula 1.

"Lewis and Nico understand and accept the team's number one rule: there must be no contact between the team's cars on track.

"It has been made clear that another such incident will not be tolerated. But Nico and Lewis are our drivers and we believe in them.

"They remain free to race for the 2014 FIA Formula 1 world championship."

Rosberg has had to climb down from his untenable position that their Spa accident 'was Lewis's fault because he didn't leave me enough room' etc and admit he made an error - an error that not only handed victory to another team, it also brought Red Bull back into striking distance for the driver's title.

Nothing much has really changed with the announcement. All team-mates from F1 to GP2 to Touring cars to WEC know that it is unacceptable to crash into a team-mate. No change there. At the Silver Arrows team, it's just a bit more unacceptable than it was before.

Rosberg, a German driver in a German team, is not going to be publicly hampered in any way by Mercedes. It would be very very bad PR for them to restrict his chances of winning the title in a bid to even out the anomalies in points brought about by the Belgian GP coming together.

The most interesting question about Friday's meeting is: What were the 'disciplinary measures' that Mercedes invoked against Rosberg?

Straight after the race, Lewis guessed that Nico would get a slap on the wrists and nothing much would happen. Given his tendency to divulge information about intra-team injustices (remember him tweeting Jenson Button's telemetry in 2012?) it's likely that Mercedes have told him to keep the details of any Rosberg sanctions to himself.

Or... if Lewis deems them to be insufficient... we'll find out next weekend.

The good news is that the Mercedes team are prepared to see their drivers racing "hard" i.e. not just following each other after the final pit-stop has sealed the order. And that's also good news for Lewis, who is naturally much better at racing hard than Nico.

Though it's great for the neutral fan to see guys like Daniel Ricciardo seizing his moment, the closer he comes to Rosberg and Hamilton - with the threat of a 50-point bonanza in the final race - the more likely we'll see Mercedes switch to safety mode.

Until then, it's game on at Monza.

Eddie Jordan accused the Mercedes team of being weak for allowing the situation between the drivers to develop as it did. However Messrs Wolf and Lowe have reacted in the only way they could, while still leaving us the prospect of a thrilling finale to the season. EJ also had a go at the fans in Spa for booing. When you've shelled out £500 and upwards to go to Belgium to see your favourite driver and he's taken out on Lap 2 (because his team-mate wanted to make a point) you have a right to express some emotion. F1 bosses are very keen to speak on behalf of the fans when it suits them, and it's the real diehards who camp out at a wet Belgian GP weekend who deserve to be listened to.

But here's a thing. Fan/podium interaction could be used in a positive way. The next time Eddie's on the podium instead of asking one bland final question to the drivers he should turn to the fans and ask: "what do you think of double points for the final race of the season?" Then we'll know.

Andrew Davies

Formula 1 Descends On Suzuka

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