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'I didn't feel good about team orders', admits Hamilton

12 April 2013

With most of the furore about team orders at the 2013 F1 Malaysian Grand Prix focussing on the Red Bull drivers, Mercedes' own use of pit wall directives at Sepang has largely flown under the radar in the intervening weeks. But that doesn't mean that Lewis Hamilton is any happier with the situation.

"For days afterwards, I didn't feel good about it," the British driver said on Friday in his regular column for BBC Sport. "I felt very awkward about the situation - I even emailed my team principal Ross Brawn a couple of times telling him I didn't feel very good about it.

"It was an awkward position for me because I don't like to be gifted anything," he added. "Every point, every position I have ever raced for in my whole life I have earned."

Hamilton said that he'd been on both sides of team order directives in the past and understood both the pluses and minuses. As the number two McLaren driver in 2007 he'd been called upon to defer to Fernando Alonso which had "got a little bit in the way of my opportunity through the year."

But the following year he'd been the beneficiary when his new team mate Heikki Kovalainen let him past at Hockenheim. "I was fighting for the championship at the time. I was quicker than Heikki and was coming through the field, so he let me past because he knew it was what was best for the team and best for me."

While clearly not thrilled by team orders in either direction, Hamilton admitted that there is a time and a place for them: "When you have team orders you have to be able to rationalise it, hope it is for the right reasons, and stick to it."

In Mercedes' case in Malaysia, Hamilton's early fight with the Red Bulls at the front caused him to burn up fuel faster than expected than left him at a real risk of running dry before the end and having to retire, which would have been to the detriment of the team as well as himself. That meant team boss Ross Brawn made the call over the radio and insisted both Hamilton and his team mate Nico Rosberg held position to the end.

"For at least three-quarters of that race I had earned that position," Hamilton insisted. "[But] during that last little part it felt weird that Nico was all over me and then we were told to hold position. It didn't feel real for me.

"The way I move on is that I will work my backside off to make sure I am not in that position again," he added.

Hamilton pointed out that he and Jenson Button had been in a similar position in 2010 at Turkey, when Hamilton had been in fuel-saving mode only to be surprised by an overtaking move from his team mate just as Sebastian Vettel had dived past Mark Webber at Malaysia.

"That was tough," Hamilton admitted. "So I understand the feelings Mark had. I got my position back but it was a risky manoeuvre, which could have caused us both to not finish the race."

Overall, Hamilton said that he was happy with the new phase of his F1 career at Mercedes and described 2013 so far as "a dream start to the year for me" especially as he'd moved to a car potentially two seconds slower than the one he had left behind at McLaren.

But with the Woking team struggling so far this season, Hamilton is riding high in a reenergised Mercedes team and both he and Rosberg look like potential challengers for the win at Shanghai.

"I couldn't be happier with my decision," he said of his decision to move on. "It is just the most satisfying experience and maybe we are not winning just yet but I see a great future for this team."


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