Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said action could be taken against Lewis Hamilton for ignoring team orders during the last race of the F1 season. The British driver has said he did nothing wrong.
The news of Nico Rosberg's first drivers' championship was somewhat overshadowed on Monday by debate within the Mercedes team about their drivers' behavior. During the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, leader Lewis Hamilton sought to slow the pace of the race and thereby back his teammate Nico Rosberg into trouble.
Rosberg was running second, and Hamilton knew that his teammate needed to finish fourth or worse for the Brit to have a chance at the championship. Hamilton was trying to give Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen a better shot at overtaking Rosberg, who maintained second place and claimed the title. Hamilton was fighting for his fourth world championship, having won the crown in 2008, 2014 and 2015.
Although he broke no rules in the process, he did put Mercedes' 1-2 finish in jeopardy. Furthermore, motorsport's great unwritten rule is that your teammate typically gets better treatment than the rest of your rivals.
Some reports on Monday suggested Mercedes could even sanction Hamilton, who led the race from start to finish, for twice ignoring radio calls from the team ordering him to pick up the pace. After the race, Mercedes' head of motorsport, Toto Wolff, made his displeasure known.
"It's very simple: anarchy does not work in any team and in any company. A precedent has been set," he said. "Undermining a structure in public means you are putting yourself before the team."
Hamilton: didn't do 'anything dangerous'
Hamilton defended his actions, saying the team should have stayed out of it.
"I don't think I did anything dangerous, I don't think I did anything unfair," he said. "We were fighting for the championship; I was in the lead so I control the pace."
Rosberg also did not complain about Hamilton's behavior, saying in one post-race interview that Hamilton had done an "awesome" job in his last-gasp bid to spoil his teammate's day.
Wolff said that before taking any action, the team would analyze the overall situation.
"Maybe we want to give them more freedom next year, or go with the harsher side where we feel the values were not respected. I am not sure yet where my finger is going to point or the needle is going to go," he said.
Given a raft of regulation changes for the 2017 season, there's no guarantee Mercedes will be able to make this decision entirely for themselves. During the past three years of near-total dominance, the team has given its drivers relatively freedom to battle with one another. If a rival like Red Bull, Ferrari, or even McLaren can challenge next season, Mercedes might be forced to run a tighter ship internally.
Invitation from home
Meanwhile, Wiesbaden, the western German city, where Nico Rosberg was born, has said it hopes to welcome the new drivers' champion back for a celebration in the not-too-distant future.
"He will receive a congratulatory letter, which will include an invitation," a spokesperson for the city of Wiesbaden said. However, it remains unclear when the new champion might have time in his busy schedule to visit his hometown.
pfd/msh (AFP, dpa)