Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Interlagos, 2007

Hamilton’s 2007 title defeat shows team orders are necessary – Wolff

2018 Japanese Grand Prix

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team is prepared to use team orders again in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix despite the criticism it received for doing so last weekend.

Wolff said the manner in which Hamilton lost the 2007 world championship to Kimi Raikkonen shows the team mustn’t pass up any opportunity to add to the points tally of its leading driver.

“In 2007, two races to go, 45 points between the drivers in today’s points and he lost the championship. Would anybody have thought you could lose 45 points in two races? Impossible.

“The racing happens on Sunday and not necessarily the quickest car wins. We had a moment in the summer when we weren’t the quickest car and we scored some victories. I wouldn’t want to take the foot off the pedal because a DNF in a freak race and it’s all vanished. So our approach hasn’t changed.”

However Wolff said the team intends to be more flexible with its approach to using team orders instead of trying to plan for every eventuality.

“Maybe our discussion that we had on Sunday morning in Sochi was a good discussion, but it didn’t consider the situation of us being under pressure in the way we were, in a sandwich-like situation with Sebastian all over Lewis, and Verstappen in the front.

“It reminds you that the best plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy. And that happened in Sochi. So the discussion is going to be a different one, leaving enough space to take decisions that might be a necessary evil.”

In Russia Hamilton lost a place to Sebastian Vettel after the team left him out for an extra lap in his first stint. Wolff later took responsibility for the error, saying he was talking to strategists James Vowles at the time.

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He described how their decision-making set-up works in a race between himself, Vowles, technical director James Allison and chief race engineer Andrew Shovlin.

“James [Vowles] flies the aeroplane. What I can do is comment and give him feedback and input but ultimately it’s his decision. Although with my ranking I am higher up, I will not interfere and it is his call at the end.

“We are probably distracting each other all the time. Today he said ‘Quiet on the radio now, apart from Shov[lin] and that was directed at me, I guess.

“The race support room back in Brackley is engaged as well, but I also have this special button with James Allison where we are offloading all the crap and vice-a-versa, just to not offload it on the guys who are actually flying the plane.

“Unless I am 100 percent convinced that [Vowles] has not spotted something, I will not give my input and I will not interfere in the final decision.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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  • 23 comments on “Hamilton’s 2007 title defeat shows team orders are necessary – Wolff”

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      6th October 2018, 13:34

      I kind of disagree with the comment that lack of team orders was responsible for Lewis not winning the title in 2007. It was actually inexperience. His tyres were going off and he simply didn’t have the confidence to say to his team ‘I need to change tyres, I’m coming in’. Equally Fernando could have won but he didn’t because of his crash in Fuji (a mistake he subsequently owned up to)

      1. @Jonathan Parkin You clearly have not seen China 2007 cause Hamilton exactly did say that but the team said that he had to stay outside, even the Bridgestone managers told the team to get Hamilton in.

        1. I saw that as a deliberate attempt by Whitmarsh to slow Lewis down and give Fernando a chance. Had Lewis not been forced to retire he would likely have cleanly won the WDC in his first year.

        2. @noname Agree, you’re right, though I’d like to think today’s Hamilton would simply say “I’m pitting” and force the issue. One of the dumbest mistakes ever by a team, they just needed to bank the points.

      2. Not giving Lewis team orders to stay behind Alonso (and Lewis not being willing to take them even if when they did) might have been part of the complete breakdown between the team and Alonso. Apart from that, team orders were not really even a factor at McLaren anymore, especially not towards the end.

        It is quite ludicrous to say that the situation is in any way comparable. The reason why both McLaren drivers dropped behind Kimi was mainly due to the hostile situation within the McLaren team. Kimi just happened to be the lucky third dog who ended up taking the bone.

    2. Did he watch 2007?

      1. Yah. Have to remember too, both are rooster in mclaren 2007. FA wouldnt like it if being order to give way to inexperience LH at that time. But still…yah…they both end up share points.

        1. I mean, worth pointing out the McLaren in 2007 wasn’t strictly ‘legal’ anyway so you could suggest karma but that’s a different argument. Team orders wouldn’t have given Hamilton or Alonso the championship that year either way, and even if they were issued (despite it being illegal at the time) I think both of them would have ignored the order – like Hamilton ignored Mercedes team orders against Rosberg for the title.

          Thing with team orders, we don’t like it when team orders are carried out (Massa/Alonso, Bottas/Hamilton, Barrichello/Schumacher) but we’re also not fine with it when team orders are ignored (Hamilton/Mercedes, Vettel/Red Bull) so they seem to be a necessary part of F1 but one that never works positively. So sure use them but be aware you’ll be hated for doing it and hated for not doing it – and paradoxically correctly in both cases.

          1. Yah both situation are understandable. Let say mclaren order FA to give way to LH…FA’s fans will hate the team and for the order and FA’s fans will hate FA if he approve it. But FA’s fans will love it if FA ignored the team order, but the team and LH and LH’s fans will hate if FA ignored it. If you are on LH side, you will say team order is good. But if you on FA side, you will team order is bad.

    3. Hammy lost in 2007 because he spun off going into the pits in China.

      I mean sure, you can protect against your number one driver making stupid mistakes, but if you’re making stupid mistakes like that do you really deserve to be champion? No.

      Russia proved that F1 is nothing more than WWE.

      At least I’ll never have to hear about Austria 2002 or Germany 2010 for the rest of my life because what Mercedes did at Russia 2018 was far worse than those decisions.

      1. that’s right because gifting a win at the finish line is so much more honorable and dignified than letting someone through with 27 laps to go. Your anti Lewis/Mercedes rhetoric is bordering insanity at this point.

        1. It’s more honourable to show the world that Barrichello really won the race then to steal that moment from Bottas and creating doubt about his superiority in Russia.

          Russia 2018 was one of the lowest moments in the sport’s history.

      2. In 2010 team orders were illegal so that was objectively worse than what happened in Sochi this year. Germany 2010 was outright cheating as far as the rules are concerned (even if those rules were impractical and almost impossible to enforce in a team sport such as F1). We might not like what happened in Sochi but everything was entirely within the rules of the sport, so I’m not sure how you can argue it was ‘far worse’ than 2010.

      3. far worse than Austria 2002″.

        No one takes you seriously after reading this.

        1. No one takes ‘anonHammy’ seriously ever.

      4. Note that they happen every 8 years, team orders that make fans go crazy, coincidence?

        1. So be ready in 2026 when gasly or whoever his team mate is, will let verstappen through when he’s already ahead in the championship!

    4. Hamilton lost the title because of his own mistake Toto. If he hadn’t lost the brakes in the pit entry, he would become champ.

      1. True. If his car hadn’t cut out at Brazil for no reason he would have won the championship too of course.

    5. The end of 2007 does indeed highlight the importance of team orders (or ‘team massaging Massa behind Raikkonen’, as standard team orders were ‘illegal’ then). But mostly it highlights the importance of not making silly mistakes (Hamilton made two – China and Brazil T3), and not having reliability issues at inopportune moments (the cut-out in Brazil).

      All three things played a part in 2007’s final two races. Take away any one of them, and Hamilton would have won.

      Just wish we could go back and take team orders out of 2018…

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        6th October 2018, 15:19

        But how would you write the regulation banning them (making sure to cover all eventualities)

    6. Thomas Bennett (@felipemassadobrasil)
      6th October 2018, 14:58

      The difference that everyone seems to forget is that Alonso only missed out on the title by 1 point and still had a real chance of the title. They needed to cover Raikkonen. Plus they would have surely factored in Hamiltons inexperience. This is completely different. Plus Ferrari only used team orders in Brazil.

    7. I think what Toto was getting at was that even with a healthy points advantage things can go badly for odd reasons and used the circumstances of how HAM lost his advantage in 2007 as an example. He didn’t suggest that if McLaren used team orders in that championship then HAM would’ve of been WDC.

      So if a situation pops up where a “team order” can potentially mitigate against freak occurrences in the future then he’ll do it. My problem is I want the freak occurrences to play a part in it, for example VET locking up and crashing whilst leading the race, HAM not getting a good getaway from pole position and losing places, especially on a track that’s difficult to overtake.

      Yes it’s a team sport, I get it, but once the lights turn green, I only wished it was the driver’s doing the necessary with only safety/strategy calls coming from the team in the pits. What I mean about strategy calls is information about the car, lap times and what their rivals are doing, not “please let the other car by” or “please hold up VET”, etc, etc.

    Comments are closed.