ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX – Race results
Toto Wolff says Mercedes only ordered Lewis Hamilton to pick up his pace in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix so as to see off the looming threat of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, rather than specifically side with Nico Rosberg in his title bid.
Rosberg's second place finish behind Hamilton around the Yas Marina Circuit was enough to see him crowned F1 champion for the first time but it came amidst a tense final few laps as the outgoing winner attempted to slow the pace and allow Vettel and Max Verstappen into contention.
Prompting Hamilton's engineer to urge him to pick up the pace as Vettel emerged as an increasing threat on a fresh set of tyres late on, he was given another hurry up in the closing stages by Paddy Lowe. Though it isn't clear whether Hamilton adhered to the order, the quartet would hold station to the chequered flag.
Though Hamilton's tactics have drawn a mixed response from rivals and team managers, with Vettel himself inferring that he held back rather than play a critical role in the title battle, Mercedes team boss Wolff insists the messages were not specifically to help Rosberg but to ensure Mercedes stopped Ferrari from winning the race.
READ: Hamilton: I don't know why Mercedes didn't let us race…
“It looked like Sebastian would win the race and there was probably two seconds more pace in the car, or a second and a half more pace in the car and we felt that we didn't want to lose the race and therefore for him to increase the pace
“Our number one principles in three years -- doesn't matter whether it's the first race or the last -- was to ensure the win,” he said. “Now you can question that, whether it's the right principle going forward, but that's exactly what we did on the pit wall, there was two moments and this is why we asked him to increase the pace and it wasn't for any other reason.
Understanding the reasons for Hamilton's actions – which he says were taken into consideration pre-race -, Wolff admits he was torn by the idea of allowing them to race outright and not intervene but felt he had a duty to intervene for the good of Mercedes. Regardless, he admits it isn't a clear cut position.
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“I'm in two minds at that stage. The guy who is responsible for the company and the structure we have put in place, and the team that we have put in place and its values, is pretty clear. It can't make a difference whether it's the first or the last race we have invented those values and principles and those objectives and they have won us races and won us championships.
“So this is one side and the other side is the racer in me, and maybe I would have done the same. He had two choices, either disappear in the distance and ensure that he was the quickest guy on the planet today and win the race irrespective of what's happening in the back, or decide the other way and bunch them up behind him.
“So this is why it's not clear cut, I think we have to calm down. There is so much going on in the background which plays a role in how we are thinking and this is why I don't want to express an opinion before I've actually made up my mind for myself.”
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