Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Sochi Autodrom, 2019

Mercedes will “play the most fair game” in drivers’ title fight

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In the round-up: Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the team will ensure their drivers are treated fairly as they fight for the drivers’ title over the remaining four races.

What they say

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are the only drivers left who can win the championship.

I think we’ve got to stay true to the values that we have defined in the past and always play the most fair game. You can see how difficult it is sometimes like [in Japan].

But we are certainly keen and you see them racing. Valtteri’s very much an outsider with the points [he’s 64 points behind] – two and a half wins out of four races. So we will give them equal opportunity and for them to race it out of track.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Does IndyCar’s Aeroscreen show the direction F1 should have taken with its Halo?

The Penske looks pretty wild with the screen painted (wrapped) on top. I’m sure things will look considerably better by the time next season rolls around and the teams play with the livery schemes. I’d love to see the view front on to see if that changes the optical illusion of it being flat, which it isn’t.

This is a quantum leap for drivers safety! Pretty certain you’ll see this on the next F1 cars. Thank you all involved.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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64 comments on “Mercedes will “play the most fair game” in drivers’ title fight”

  1. Even if they favor Valterri, he wont AND is unworthy of a WDC..let alone that Merc seat

    1. 2nd place in the championship ! what more should he do to be worthy?

      1. i dont know, how about beating ham over the course of a whole season?

        next season’s bottas 3.0 will still be not good enough

        1. I’m not entirely sure how your logic works…those comments contradict each other massively.

          1. Of course they dont, one is true and one is sarcasm

        2. With that logic, no team would keep the same two drivers for two years in a row! “You didn’t beat your team-mate, you’re out!” How silly.

    2. Lol. What I heard is, merc is going to be as fair as possible as Hamilton is anyway goingbto win. Sounds pretty bad.

  2. If Mercedes want to ‘play fair’ then don’t lock Hamilton and Bottas into pre-arranged strategies, especially forcing them to use the same strategies (tyres and number of stops). The only rule should be that if they both want to pit on the same lap, the leading driver has preference. The rest should be left open, including switching strategies mid-race if they want.
    If not, as in Japan, it will look like Mercedes are deciding who’s going to win.

    1. * win between themselves obviously, not necessarily the race :o)

    2. @david-br
      Or indeed, don’t have Bottas play rear gunner in Singapore. Too little, too late. The damage is already done. No 2 driver will finish no 2. Exactly as they want it, so don’t try make out like it’s all even, cos its not.

      1. And don’t turn a blind eye to the number of times Bottas has been pitted first even when Ham is leading; putting Ham unnecessarily at risk, so as to prevent Bottas being undercut and losing a place. It works both ways.
        And please stop using Singapore. If they hadn’t used Bottas as a rear gunner to try a different strategy, or Bottas wouldn’t play ball, Ham would have just pitted earlier and still came out in front of Bottas.
        If Bottas wants ‘preferential’ treatment under the current regime then he should try getting more poles or leading a bit more. As he he did in Japan. Running round a few places, or 15 seconds behind Ham isn’t going to cut it.

        1. @riptide Exactly. The only thing they seem to think is “fair” is to make sure the driver who goes first into turn 1 finishes ahead also at the end of the race. How can they even call that “racing”?

          1. Well its fair on both drivers; but as you say, not racing. It can be changed, but only when it has no impact on the teams priorities and both drivers agree to it, as they did in Silverstone; although in that case there was a slight variation in that Hamilton changed the alternate strategy on the fly. (And was proved right in doing so.)
            I’m sure most reasonable fans can see the logic of the team coming first; but on many occasions there would have been no detriment to the team in allowing both sides of the garage to fight it out on differing strategies. For example, for the rest of the season now the WCC is secure, and with no non-Mercedes drivers in the WDC fight.
            In their defence Mercedes would argue that 6 and 6 speaks for itself.

          2. @riptid Exctly and it would be a lot more interesting if they allow their drivers to actually race each other. Which would give more TV viewing of their cars and people wouldn’t complain so much about dominating the sport.

            ps For Silverstone the offset strategy with the hard tyre was already on the table for both drivers. Hamilton did not come up with that during the race, but both were allowed to choose that one and Bottas picked the faster strategy.

      2. @eurobrun They gave Bottas the earlier stop while letting Hamilton languish in the lead on ever further degrading tyres.. So in return Bottas had to give the benefit of the undercut back. How is that damage done to Bottas?

        That’s just how annoyingly fair Mercedes wants to play this thing out.

  3. What I don’t understand is why have a race in Miami in May. That is when it starts to get hot and humid in Florida, and mid-afternoon torrential downpours start to get all the more common. Why not have it as the first race (unless Melbourne has that contractually agreed) or pair it with Brazil in November? That’s logistically easier for the teams…

    1. @david-br Two big reason why they won’t have the Miami race in November. November is still hurricane season. Secondly, the NFL season is in full swing by November, and Hard Rock Stadium is where the Dolphins play. Also, I’m pretty sure that Melbourne does have it in their contract, that they’re the first race of the season.

      1. Why would the NFL season have anything to do with racing in Miami? The Dolphins aren’t a real team and will probably be moved to London by 2021.

        1. LOL to Jim.

          @Forrest Your first reason is not really valid. Hurricane season is pretty much done at the end of October.

          Your second reason is valid. Although still possible, the Dolphins would probably have to schedule two to three away games in a row to have time for the race.

          I would guess the main reason for a May race is to not be to close to the COTA date.

          As for rain in May, it is possible but the rainy season doesn’t really kick in till June. That being said March or April would be better.

        2. That will not happen. The Dolphins are a dreadful team right now but no NFL team will ever be in London. Also September is peak hurricane season, November is pretty much the end of hurricane season. The Miami Tennis Open is in late March, so an ideal time (and this is when they used to have it back in the IMSA GTP days) would be late February/early March. November still wouldn’t be a bad idea- NASCAR moved their Homestead-Miami race to late March (the day after the Sebring WEC and Sebring 12 Hours race weekend).

    2. @mfreire May in Miami isn’t any worse than October (the original target month), though. The historical average high is only 0.5 degrees Celcius lower than the equivalent of October, and the daily mean 0.4, so hardly any difference whatsoever. In Miami/FL, all the months are similarly warm to each other (like in Singapore/SE-Asia), so temperature-wise, there isn’t a massive swing from the coolest month of the year to the warmest. The climate-aspect isn’t why I question May now being the target month, but precisely the scheduling of the other NA-venues. The Canadian GP taking place at a separate time of year to COTA and Mexico City is thoroughly justified due to how different its climate is to those two. Miami, though, taking place separately from those two wouldn’t be since its climate allows for it to take place at the same time of year as COTA and Mexico. Furthermore, I don’t see how it could even fit in May, to begin with, given how cramped that month already is with European venues, preceded by a venue in the Far East and Southeast Asia each.

      @Ericglo ”I would guess the main reason for a May race is to not be to close to the COTA date.”
      – COTA and Miami aren’t even ‘close’ to each other, to begin with, though. The distance between them is a ‘massive’ 1,782.17 km by air (2,157.63 km via driving route), which is far greater than the COTA-Mexico City distance (1,211.39 km via air/1,520.23 km via road). The Spa-Monza distance is only 597.78 km by air (774.60 km via driving route), and yet no one complains (nor has complained) about their scheduling on subsequent weekends. Nor about Hockenheim and Hungaroring taking place on back-to-back weekends despite a distance of 811.95 km (971.48 km via road) between them. The Paul Ricard-Red Bull Ring distance is also significantly smaller than the COTA-Miami one in 828.88 km (1,114.65 km via road), so it would be double-standards there if that were the case. The Montreal-Indianapolis (these two venues were on back-to-back weekends from 2004 to ’07) distance is roughly the same as the COTA-Mexico one BTW. For final reference here, the Red Bull Ring-Silverstone (these two took place on subsequent weekends from 2016 to ’18) are also closer to each other than COTA and Miami.

      1. @jerejj I think you are wrong to disregard being close to CotA as a big part of this.

        First of all, things are relative – there are far more people crammed in a relatively small place in Europe compared to the USA. And there is a far larger part of the inhabitants who are likely to visit an F1 race too. So having 3 races in the region (south of Northern America) is going to cut into a potential target group of Americans and overseas tourists wanting to visit.

        If you split them with one event earlier in the year, you are more likely to be able to attract overall more fans either because the time fits them better, or because they can visit 2 of those events.

        But really, I think we shouldn’t count out the Dolphins games either, since it is highly unlikely that the NFL will be all too forthcoming in helping F1 out to make sure the stadium is available in November.

        1. @bascb ”If you split them with one event earlier in the year, you are more likely to be able to attract overall more fans either because the time fits them better, or because they can visit 2 of those events.”
          – LOL. Grouping races together by geography, if anything, would have the opposite effect on what people theorize, especially when it comes to overseas-attendees. Why would someone want to travel to the same continent twice, or even thrice separately instead of doing that within the same trip instead, saving a lot of time on air-travelling back-and-forth? I’d be far more willing to attend both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi GP within the same season if they took place on back-to-back weekends than with the current arrangement of having them at the opposite ends of the championship simply to minimize unnecessary back-and-forth travelling for myself. I’m positive both would gain quite a lot more International race-tourists by having them take place on subsequent weekends than at the opposite ends of each season. I’ve always struggled to buy into and justify these type of claims, and find them rather BS to be perfectly honest.

          1. Sorry, but is seriously doubt there are a significant amount of people who would be able to go to all of Miami, Mexico and CotA @jerejj even if they in a back to back scenario. I think you seriously overestimate the amount of people who can afford that.

            For overseas attendees it is almost certainly more likely for them to be happy they can choose between November and May. For both Mexico and CotA mexican fans were a large part of those buying tickets, these are not going to come to Mexico AND Cota AND Miami, they would choose between CotA and Miami, if they come to the USA at all.
            For fans from the USA and Canada (if Montreal won’t fit their planning) it would most likely be a choice between those races, not going to all either.

        2. @bascb If a person couldn’t afford to attend all three within the same season, then that equally applies to any race calendar-arrangements, not only the scenario of having the races grouped by geography. Most people would only attend one of them per season regardless of their scheduling, and slots on the race calendar.

        3. @bascb So all things considered, I stand by my point. My point stands valid.

          1. Ahm, yeah, whatever @jerejj.

            I am sure that CotA wasn’t too thrilled either that they will have to share their fans first with Mexico (that was a big hit to visitor numbers) and now with Miami.

            But IF you have to share a market, it is better to have them at least spread out, so that one might catch people who can in one part of the year, and the other catches people able to visit in a different part of the year. And you still have the chance that people can afford to go to two events spread over the year.

        4. @bascb Mexico’s return to F1 after a long-hiatus also coincided with the extreme wet-weather conditions that struck the Austin-area four years ago. That was (probably) an even bigger hit to COTA’s visitor-numbers at the time, but since then, things have stayed relatively stable on that aspect.

          1. yes @jerejj, visitors have indeed been more or less stable since then – with a greatly diminished amount of visitors from Mexico.

          2. Have you been to Miami or even Florida before? Have you even experienced 90 degree weather with 90 percent humidity? Can you even imagine what that is like for the drivers? (Sepang doesn’t count as the weather is like that all the time) And also the higher chance of torrential rain? I lived in Florida for 2 years- the likelihood of rain around the time the race would start is 68%- pretty high, by any standard.

            Your main argument is logistics in regards to cost saving. The only other Americas race you could feasibly pair with Canada in June is Mexico, where the climate is for the most part the same all year, and the race start time would avoid the late afternoon rain storms. Another solution is to have the Canadian GP right after the Italian Grand Prix (in Singapore’s slot) then the Mexican and Brazilian GP’s, and then COTA and then Miami.

            Italy (September 7)
            Canada (September 21)
            Mexico (September 28)
            Brazil (October 12)
            COTA (October 26)
            Miami (November 2)
            Singapore (November 16)
            Abu Dhabi (November 30)

          3. And in case you’re wondering where Japan would go, then:

            Australia (March 14)
            Vietnam (March 21)
            Bahrain (April 5)
            China (April 19)
            Japan (April 26)
            Spain (May 10)
            Monaco (May 24)
            Azerbaijan (June 8)

  4. *unless Melbourne has that privilege contractually

  5. Wait, do we even have a championship battle? Toto? What?

  6. Valterri is 64 points behind Lewis is in the WDC right now. Unless Lewis has absolute shocking luck in the last four races, Valterri is out of it. Mathematically Bottas still has a chance but, realistically speaking, Hamilton has his sixth title in the bag already.

    Nonetheless, Bottas has definitely stepped his game up this year; which he should be commended for. He just needs to step it up another notch, if he is to properly challenge Hamilton for the title.

    1. I don’t think Valterris 2019 season was any better than his 2017 season. He stepped it up a notch from 2018, but that was a really poor season for him. Unfortunately, I just don’t think Bottas has any answers for Lewis. This is as good as it gets for him.

      1. That’s still pretty damn good, though :)

  7. Barring any serious mishaps dont think Lewis will win title in Mexico. He needs to outscore Valteri by 14 points and given the recent of Mercs in Mexico it is tough ask.

    1. Yep, I think it will be another COTA WDC, only needs Bottas not to gain more than 12 points net over those two races, and COTA is usually a good one for Hamilton.

      Of course, a Vettel clash in Mexico with Bottas slipping through to 2nd, like in 2017 would get him temporarily there, but even third place at COTA, with Bottas fourth would end that again.

      1. another COTA WDC

        Good point, and that ought to please Liberty, @bosyber

      2. @bosyber The WDC has been clinched at COTA only once, though, and that happened in 2015.

        1. I believe COTA and Mexico have swapped places in calendar this year. Even last year it was on race 19(Mexico) where Lewis took his title and this there is a good possibility once again that Lewis will take his title in 19th race of calendar.

          1. I think you both are right, indeed.

          2. @Chaitanya True, but that’s only for this season.

  8. roberto giacometti
    17th October 2019, 5:30

    Who are they trying to kid ??
    After what has been witnessed this season, it is clear who is the wingman !!!

    1. Putting aside the obvious desire to get it wrapped up early, I think Hamilton will be pretty happy to celebrate winning it in America.

      1. No idea why the above appeared in reply to you ! But to reply to you; as we saw in Japan the it is clear who the wingman is. The guy who is behind the other one. In that case it was Hamilton.

  9. Was ready to slam them, but they said: ….play the most fair game… in the last 4 races. Cause they were the best team regardingv team orders too. Next to them, Ferrari kinda look like amateurs regarding team orders.

    1. @mg1982 They played fair the whole year though. Perhaps you don’t understand what fair entails, but still. Just look at races like Austria and Japan and it’s clear that Mercedes will hang Hamilton out to dry just as much as they do with Bottas when they are the driver “behind”.

  10. Having watched the last race again I am sure Mercedes did not play fair with Hamilton. That was silly and unnecessary and smelled like the Paddy Lowe attempt to stop Hamilton backing up Rosberg and so deprive him of a win and a title.

    Now all this emphasis on fair play is an attempt to repair the damage. It might just be the beginning of the end.

    Depressingly what happens so often to the serially successful. Hubris followed by self induced nemesis.

    1. Suggest you watch the Singapore GP again and you might come up with a more balanced view.

      1. @coldfly what the race where they pitted the second Merc first to protect their position (as they should have done this race) and allowed to finish just 1 position behind instead of 2? Try again.

      2. Witan, Hamilton was the driver behind in that race and therefore he does not get the optimal strategy. Mercedes even decided that it won;t even be allowed to try out an offset strategy with another tyre compound for that would be deemed “unfair” to the driver in front.

        So Mercedes considers the Q3 result (and a bit of the start) as the only indication of what would be a “fair” result of the race. No racing or fighting is really allowed/possible in their philosophy.

        @coldfly Singapore is a good indication of how ridiculously fair Mercedes wants to play it yes. Bottas got the benefit of the undercut to save his position. Which ultimately hurt Hamilton’s race and Mercedes decided to let Bottas give that unduly gained position back. Besides it helped the team finish in better positions overall.

      3. @coldfly Not really the same. At Singapore Hamilton suggested the undercut, the team thought no, Vettel pitted and got past Leclerc, leaving Hamilton basically nowhere. After that the team owed him, which is why they worked it so he’d come out ahead of Bottas after pitting – technically on a ‘different strategy’ ready to chase for a win if and when his fresher tyres outlasted the Ferraris and MV. The problem was the safety cars. In Japan, Hamilton probably would have been on a 1-stop had Bottas not jumped into the lead from the start. That presumably ‘messed up’ Mercedes’s decision to go for a split strategy to beat the Ferraris. The sticking point is that Hamilton could definitely taken second and Mercedes got a 1-2. But they deliberately avoided that by getting Hamilton to pit so they wouldn’t have to ask him to move aside for Bottas, knowing that getting past Vettel’s Ferrari back into second would be very difficult at Suzuka. That – you have to admit – is a very strange decision for a team to take, go for a 1-3 rather than a 1-2. It also cost Hamilton championship points. And given they (Wolff) are saying there’s still a WDC fight between their drivers, that’s not a slight thing.

  11. Remarkably Mercedes are better than Ferrari even in this part of competition.

    Being fair to their drivers.

    There are some who claim Mercedes have wronged Hamilton should consider what in practice their drivers get.

    Rule 1. Driver who is in front by the time for first pitstops is their lead driver.
    Rule 2. Lead driver gets best strategy, first in to the pits at best times, and will likely get 4-5s faster strategy.
    Rule 3. Second driver does not get a strategy that would threaten lead driver.

    It is probably way more elaborate, years of running Nico and Lewis for P1, P2 lead them to perfect this set of rules for teammate fairness.

    They were to the point of kicking one of them out of the car for a race because things got so bad.

    Meanwhile Ferrari have some random rules.

    Driver 1 does not defend position so driver 2 can get by, then driver 2 must leave driver 1 pass, then driver 2 gets preferred strategy, but driver one gets faster strategy but not so good track position, then trying to switch positions, then…

    Sure it might seem like Mercedes is giving Bottas a poor strategy when compared to Hamilton, but that is clearly that way because Hamilton is often on top by end of lap 1.

    Now when reverse happened fans should remember this is how Mercedes does things. It is fairly fair that #1 driver on track is given best strategy. Otherwise they risk a very real issue of behaving like Ferrari does.

    Ferrari are in a world of pain, because they decide their #1 driver on the fly shifting that position during the weekend and during the race, therefore there are many sad faces on the podium and more often not on the podium at all. But worst of all there is Chaos.

    You cannot run a loose ship like that and daydream of championships. Mercedes is eating them up with their rigorous structure to driver strategy.

    1. @jureo We’ve seen races where it bites Mercedes though. For instance Austria, where Bottas clearly had a qualification only setup and Mercedes did not allow/let Hamilton past to go and fight for the win with Leclerc and Verstappen. While Bottas just dropped further and further back and Hamilton was left to try a desperate attempt of going long on worn tyres.

      Or Japan, where they opted not to give Hamilton the same benefit which Bottas had gotten in Singapore. They could have given Hamilton the undercut to get him in front of Vettel. Yet they stopped Bottas first who had plenty of gap anyway. So instead of the likely chance on a 1-2 they could have taken they went for “fair” treatment which gave them a 1-3 and a low percentage shot of a 1-2 later on.

      1. @f1osaurus Exactly. It’s clear they often give Bottas an undercut boost when he’s behind to try to secure a 1-2. But they deliberately sent Hamilton off for unnecessary new tyres, dropping him to third, in Japan when Hamilton was leading the race and looked able to secure the position. What team doe that? Given it clearly bemused Hamilton (who hasn’t been signalling many happy thoughts since either) it’s strange that this was so overlooked in race reports. If Bottas had suffered some kind of DNF at that point, Mercedes would have thrown away the win entirely, handing it to Vettel. Bizarre.

  12. Wondering if Dieter has got any update on the Renault case soon.

  13. Did I get it wrong, or is the actual wording of the title paraphrased from what Wolff said @keithcollantine? Not really a big issue, but that bit reads so Trumpian that it made me snigger.

    Only the most fair play in the F1 world for the Mercedes drivers then, I suppose they had some practice in what works and what doesn’t and then some time to think about it until now.

  14. I think we’ve got to stay true to the values that we have defined in the past and always play the most fair game.

    What a ridiculous statement when they’ve already sacrificed Bottas’ races to maximize Hamilton’s and even call him a wing man, and all the bias and shenanigans with previous drivers.

    I always wonder at these kinds of statements. I guess it’s just aimed at the casual viewer, and they don’t care if regular viewers know about their falseness and hypocrisy but it says a lot about the team IMO.

    1. @balue Actually only the casual viewer thinks these statements are untrue. Or people who simply do not want to see/admit the truth. They see Bottas being asked to do something and they assume it’s because he’s a #2 driver. When in fact it’s because at that particular he was race the driver behind. It doesn’t happen a lot that Hamilton is behind Bottas, but still. When Hamilton is behind he suffers the same poorer strategy calls and such.

      With Mercedes the driver in the front gets most help and the driver behind is the wing man. Either one can get this role. Simply by being in front. Bottas has just as much opportunity for the preferential treatment as Hamilton does.

      1. Sacrificing a competitor’s races and making him wing man is not “the most fair game” under any definitions of it, I don’t know why you’d say that (well I probably do..).

        1. Yes, I’m sure you were livid when they sacrificed Hamilton’s race to give the win to Bottas at Singapore.

        2. “In today’s race, starting P2, after lap one, Valtteri’s race was the perfect wingman race – and I don’t mean it in championship terms, because we have no number one, we have no number two, but it was just how he was racing.”

          It seems over a year on that people are still bringing up the “wing man” remark completely out of context.

          The remark, made all the way back in Hungary 2018, was a reference to Valtteri’s specific role in that specific race given the circumstances that developed in that specific race.

          It makes it incredibly difficult to take your opinions seriously @balue when they stem from the ever prevalent storm-in-a-teacup culture that the fan base and media seem to be adopting.

  15. Fair treatment is not the same thing as equal treatment..

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