Lewis Hamilton has defended his actions at the Hungarian Grand Prix, where the Mercedes driver disobeyed team orders and refused to let his team-mate, the championship leader Nico Rosberg, overtake during Sunday’s race.
As Mercedes team heads admit they are considering revising their approach to team orders, the British driver said: “It’s not questioning authority. I’m hired to race and bring in points for the team. I’m also hired to be me and race my heart out.
“I didn’t start at the front of the pack [as Rosberg did]. I started from the pit lane, so in my mind I couldn’t afford to lose anything else. I’ve already given away too much and at the end of the year I could be looking back saying, ‘If only the car didn’t catch on fire, or if only the brakes didn’t fail. If only I didn’t make a mistake in qualifying or if only the engine hadn’t stopped in the race...’ All these things.
“So today was just a case of not giving a single point away. I tried my hardest to be ahead and I don’t feel as though I was being obligated to help him.”
Hamilton, who was later backed by the team’s non-executive chairman, Niki Lauda, who described the team orders as “a mistake” , denied that he was being ruthless, or even bloody-minded, just pragmatic in doing his job.
“I was racing against [Rosberg] ,” Hamilton said. “Why would I be concerned for him? I was racing against Fernando [Alonso] and if I dropped any ground then it would stop me overtaking him later on, so it was case of not being able to lose any time.”
But he also said he was looking forward to the continuation of the battle with Rosberg as the gloves come off in the fight for the World Championship. “It’s going to be great. There will be scenarios where it will be sensible for the team to do that [team orders]. If I was in 10th and looking to get further up and I could hinder Nico getting points for the team, that’s a position I don’t want to be in. But it’s a different thing when we are racing against each other.”
Meanwhile, Rosberg stonewalled and fell back on the age-old response of needing to discuss the matter internally with the team rather than speaking his mind, but his manner in radio communications during the race made his anger clear. But he did agree that the situation between him and Hamilton would remain intense. “Definitely, but that’s natural because it’s both of us going for race wins every race. And that it’s going to be intense is clear, and it will remain so until the end of the year. It’s an ongoing process we need to manage. There’s not any one thing. We just need to keep managing the situation.”
Now that the team seem set to win the constructors’ world championship, the team chief, Toto Wolff, concedes it may be time to reappraise their approach on team orders.
“This is one of the thoughts we are having,” Wolff said. “At the moment, we have a 170-point advantage in the constructors’ championship and maybe it is a moment of loosening it a bit, in agreement with both of them.
“The longer the season goes, the more intense it gets, and the more difficult it is to beat your team-mate. Maybe we have come to a point where what we had at the beginning of the season doesn’t function any more, because we cannot ask either driver to give up positions or jeopardise their own campaign and championship chances for the benefit of the team.”
Unfolding rivalry: Hamilton-Rosberg feud
Spain Lewis Hamilton used an unauthorised engine mode to hold off Nico Rosberg, setting the feud brewing with the pair not on speaking terms afterwards.
Monaco Rosberg locked up on his final run in qualifying, and the caution flags prevented the Brit from challenging for the crucial pole position. Rosberg won the race, and Hamilton said: “We are not friends.”
Hungary Hamilton disobeyed orders to let Rosberg pass in the race.