Will Gray

Gray Matter: Time for Mercedes to pick their man?

Will Gray

View gallery

.

ORDERS NEED TO CHANGE AT MERCEDES – BUT WHICH WAY?

Mercedes chief Niki Lauda said they shouldn’t have been given; Lewis Hamilton said he was shocked to receive them; and Nico Rosberg said he didn’t even want them. Team orders created a storm in Hungary – but the fall-out could have a crucial effect on the championship.

The ‘panicked’ decision that saw Mercedes ask Hamilton to move over for Rosberg opened a can of worms – and team bosses have confirmed they could now change the way they play for the rest of the season.

For the team, it was the right call as Rosberg was on a three-stop strategy compared to Hamilton’s two and needed a clean track to make the most out of his tyres at that point. Potentially he could have jumped the leaders and actually secured the team yet another win.

But, as Hamilton used in his defence, Rosberg didn’t get close enough. Why should he lift off for his title rival when it would clearly jeopardise his own position? The team kind of agreed.

Ultimately, Hamilton stood firm and stayed ahead for eight laps until Rosberg pitted. But it resulted in Rosberg fighting back and the pair almost coming to blows on the final lap, with Hamilton pushing Rosberg off the track to maintain position.

Which is why there will now be big questions over what the team does for the rest of the year.

Toto Wolff said: “Maybe now we cannot ask either driver to give up positions or jeopardise their title chances for the benefit of the team.”

But it is perhaps not as clear-cut as that.

With half the races gone, Mercedes are now 174 points ahead of closest challenger Red Bull in the constructors’ championship.

That’s virtually uncatchable.

But in the drivers’ championship, because Hamilton and Rosberg have shared the points fairly evenly, they are just 71 and 60 points respectively ahead of Red Bull’s lead scorer Daniel Ricciardo.

That’s actually not that much.

The Mercedes has not been without its problems this year, and although they have not yet had a double retirement, letting their cars race each other is a good way to get one.

And with double points available in the final race too, that could open the door for Ricciardo to snatch the title.

So, in fact, rather than allowing the pair to race each other, the call could go the other way - and the next time one retires it could trigger the team to favour the other for the title run-in.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

RICCIARDO IS THE REAL DEAL

View gallery

.

Daniel Ricciardo’s may have had a bit of good fortune with the safety car on Sunday but he still had to make the opportunity work – and in doing so he confirmed he is now a genuine F1 star.

His intermediate-soft-soft-soft strategy gave him the crucial pace – with Hamilton on mediums and Fernando Alonso on well-worn softs – at the end and using the added grip of his fresher tyres, his moves on around the outside of turn two on lap 67 and around turn one a lap later were nothing short of spectacular.

The fact he had the fight and the talent to pick the spots to make the moves showed he has what it takes.

No wonder his smile is bigger than ever.

SUCCESS IN F1 IS MEASURED IN INCHES

View gallery

.

The ‘saves’ from Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel on Sunday may have been more down to luck than judgement, but they showed just how crucial an inch is in Formula One.

In a race that was interrupted by some dramatic barrier bashing, Hamilton came out of a violent spin with just a light touch and limited damage while Vettel pulled a 360 on the pit straight and snapped out of a collision with the wall by the narrowest of margins.

A fraction further and either incident would have been at best a race ending crash, at worst something more serious.

We will probably never find out – but it would be interesting to see the telemetry to understand just how much was down to pure luck and how much was down to car control at that crucial moment...

View Comments (127)