How many drivers are taking sides in Hamilton and Verstappen’s title fight?

2021 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and their teams are leaving no points-scoring opportunities unexploited in their fight for the championship.

Mercedes and Red Bull have already made tactical use of the title contenders’ team mates at times during the season. When asked, Sergio Perez has been quick to let Verstappen by and Valtteri Bottas has done the same for Hamilton. They have even delayed their rivals’ drivers when needed, while staying within the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable.

But while the involvement of the title contenders’ team mates is to be expected, drivers from other teams playing similar roles is potentially more controversial.

In theory, each driver is out there to put the interest of their team and themselves first. In practice, the relationships between teams blurs the lines of where those interests lie. And the nature of modern Formula 1 racing means drivers can have a significant effect on rivals’ races through subtle actions which needn’t be as obvious as moving off-line to defend their position.

The Russian Grand Prix provided an example. Early in the race Bottas, who started 16th, caught Pierre Gasly, whose AlphaTauri team is owned by Red Bull. Verstappen soon appeared behind the pair of them.

Bottas spent a long time behind Gasly
In short order Verstappen overtook Bottas and, two laps later, Gasly as well. But Bottas never found a way around the AlphaTauri before making his first pit stop on the 28th lap. Did Gasly put up more of a fight against the Mercedes than the car from his sister team?

The messages between Gasly and race engineer Pierre Hamelin indicate his priorities involved more than just his own progress. As he accelerated out of turn 12 on lap eight Gasly was told “Max is not our race”; the Red Bull driver swept by him at the next corner.

While Gasly was told not to race Verstappen, and instead try to use follow the Red Bull past the cars ahead of him, he didn’t get a similar message regarding Bottas. This was despite the Mercedes being at least as quick the Red Bull (indeed during the weekend Red Bull said Mercedes were faster):

LapVoiceMessage
4HamelinYou have Bottas behind you now, Bottas behind. Leclerc [unclear] six.
4HamelinWe are okay at the moment. Okay at the moment.
5HamelinOkay Bottas has got DRS behind.
5HamelinAnd you can consider a bit of lift-off also turn 10.
5HamelinThere’s a very tight pack in front of you. They are all behind Raikkonen.
5HamelinStill very close behind.
6HamelinOnly place Leclerc is faster is turn 10.
6HamelinVerstappen passes Bottas
Okay now we have Max behind and Bottas behind him. Direct behind is Max.
7HamelinObviously Bottas is still very close behind Max.
8GaslyHow close is Bottas and Max?
8HamelinVery, very close. A couple of tenths.
8HamelinBottas is now five tenths behind Max. And Max is not our race.
9HamelinVerstappen passes Gasly
Okay Pierre let’s try to follow him through now.
9HamelinAnd Max is 1.1 now.
10HamelinBottas has got DRS. And there’s a big fight in front between Max, Vettel and Leclerc.

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Asked by RaceFans whether he had been trying to help Verstappen, Gasly said: “It wasn’t our race. There was more advantage for us from him overtaking the cars ahead than trying to fight him.” That may be so but it’s hard to argue the same wasn’t also true for Bottas.

George Russell, Williams, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021
Report: ‘Lewis and Valtteri are team mates to me as Nicholas is’ says Russell after ‘private’ Wolff talks
Gasly expended little effort keeping Bottas behind. Overtaking is often so difficult in Formula 1 that a leading driver doesn’t necessarily have to work hard to defend from a quicker rival. Waving a car through therefore can hand a significant advantage: Verstappen was 12 seconds ahead of Bottas by the time he pitted.

While drivers helping their team mates out in this fashion is a typical sight, it’s less common to see it between drivers from different teams. It does happen, however, and not just involving Red Bull: At the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018 Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon let Lewis Hamilton pass him when he emerged from the pits.

Ocon’s explanation was much the same as Gasly’s three years later. “It was useless for us to lose time against him,” he said. But it was doubtful Ocon was going to lose any time keeping his rival behind at a track as narrow as Monaco. Indeed, letting Hamilton past cost him over a second.

Formula 1 is notionally contested by 10 rival teams but examples like these show the distinction between competitors is not always clear. There are lines of influence between teams which aren’t necessarily as clear as two outfits sharing the same owner.

Mercedes has one junior driver, George Russell, who earlier this season described Hamilton and Bottas as being team mates in the same sense as his fellow Williams driver Nicholas Latifi. How is he going to respond if Verstappen and Hamilton (who we now know will be his actual team mate next year) appear in his mirrors? Similarly Ocon, who drives for Renault-powered Alpine, remains contracted to Mercedes.

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Next year one-quarter of the field will have links to Red Bull in some shape or form. In addition to its two drivers and the AlphaTauri pair Alexander Albon will return at Williams. Although his Red Bull contract will be suspended for that season, he will remain on a long-term deal with the team and is expected to continue wearing Red Bull colours.

It’s not just an issue for the title contenders either. Ferrari has junior drivers at Alfa Romeo (Antonio Giovinazzi) and Haas (Mick Schumacher). Between them Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari may only account for six of the 20 drivers but their influence will cover the majority of the grid next year.

If each of those three teams has a contender in the title fight next year F1 could resemble recent DTM seasons, with each leading driver able to rely on several others aligned to the same manufacturer for help. The “push him out” controversy at the Red Bull Ring a few years ago showed the extremes one team in that series was prepared to go in its pursuit of the championship.

How far are drivers allowed to help rivals from different teams? This is a tricky area to police. The International Sporting Code forbids “manipulation of competitions” which is defined as “an arrangement, act or intentional omission aimed at improperly altering the result or running of a competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of said competition, aiming to obtain an undue advantage for oneself or others.”

While the FIA saw no problem with Ocon’s actions in Monaco or Gasly’s in Sochi, how much further could they push the rules while staying on the right side of the law?

“I’d have to have a look at it on a case-by-case basis as it arises,” said Formula 1 race director Michael Masi when asked by RaceFans. “I wouldn’t like to pre-empt different things of what may or may not happen through the field.”

Flashback: 1997 European Grand Prix – Villeneuve takes title as Schumacher’s attack gets him thrown out
Following the 1997 European Grand Prix, Williams and McLaren were investigated by the FIA over allegations they colluded to decide the result of the race. Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve, nursing a damaged car to the chequered flag on his way to winning the world championship, allowed the two McLaren drivers to overtake him.

The World Motor Sport Council ruled “West McLaren Mercedes and Williams Grand Prix Engineering were able to show that there was no arrangement to fix the results of the 1997 European Grand Prix.

“For the future, in order to avoid possible misunderstandings and ambiguities, the World Motor Sport Council recommended that all radio transmissions between drivers and their pits should be freely accessible by journalists and the public.”

However Masi said this 24-year-old case would notnecessarily set a precedent for how a similar scenario would be handled today. “We’re talking ’97, a very long time ago,” he said. “So I think you’d have to look at it all on the merits of what’s there, what happens, and investigate it if necessary, on the basis of what may or may not have occurred.”

With seven races remaining there are just two points between Hamilton and Verstappen at the top of the table. The winner may be decided not just by who is the quickest driver and which team has built the best car, but also who wields the most influence throughout the grid.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2021 F1 season

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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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80 comments on “How many drivers are taking sides in Hamilton and Verstappen’s title fight?”

  1. Alonso told Dutch media that in the Hungarian Grand Prix 2021 he defended hard against Hamilton also to help Max win the championship.

    1. that was a joke

    2. @petterson I really don’t know if you’re making that up or not :)
      I mean, it strikes me as plausible that Alonso would want Hamilton to work extra hard to get past him. Hamilton is a 7-time champion, Alonso clearly feels that, under other circumstances, that could be him. So he has a point to prove. I remember Schumacher given Hamilton an equally tough time on his return. Evident in both cases by pushing the boundaries at times in their defense. Anything wrong with that? Nope. Or there’s Vettel not trying to overtake Rosberg when Hamilton was backing him up into the pack. Again, why help Hamilton win even more titles? The same will happen with Verstappen one day if he starts stacking up titles. Or any other driver.

      1. @david-br no I’m not making this up. He was interviewed after the race by a Dutch reporter from Ziggo-Sport when he was asked about his hard defending against Hamilton. At the end he said he also did it to help Max in the championship, but he said that with a smile. Whether or not there is truth in it I don’t know.

        1. @petterson The ambiguous smile makes a lot of sense! thanks

        2. IfImnotverymuchmistaken
          1st October 2021, 8:33

          I believe that was a joke, because I don’t see Alonso giving way easily to anyone.

          Off course, there is the history with Hamilton, so he may be a little bit more motivated, but that has nothing to do with Max or the championship. I think Alonso would defend as vigorously against anyone.

        3. @petterson he wasn’t making it up, he also ran into Max in the pen and said “I tried!”

          Guy is still bitter.

    3. @petterson

      Alonso told Dutch media that in the Hungarian Grand Prix 2021 he defended hard against Hamilton also to help Max win the championship.

      Oh, so Fernando quickly changed sides then, when he strived to overtake Max and pull away from him last race. ;P

    4. @petterson He was joking when he said that. He was speaking with Dutch TV who is clearly behind Max and just said so as a joke as that’s what the Dutch fans would want to hear. He defended hard because there was a win at stake for his team and a podium at stake for himself.

      1. And also cause compared to the last occasional battles with a weak mclaren when hamilton was recovering, he finally had a car he could defend for more time, so ability mattered more.

  2. While Gasly was told not to race Verstappen, and instead try to use follow the Red Bull past the cars ahead of him, he didn’t get a similar message regarding Bottas.

    I don’t want teams to be bigger than the two cars entered for the season.
    I didn’t like the Toto-Russell ‘understanding’, nor AT helping RBR.

    But then again also for an independent team it would be understandable that they decide to not lose time fighting Verstappen/Hamilton (they’ll find a way past anyway) but flight until the end to keep Bottas/Perez behind (it’s more than the speed of the car).

    1. Lets be honest and totally transparent. Red Bull owns Toro Rosso/AT by an owner with very specific goals, and both teams are heavily managed by Helmut Marko with a heavy hand. It’s very common & accepted practice a team to team race, cars 1 & 2 do what they can to improve the results of the team.
      The transcript above clearly demonstrates that this tactic has spilled over to #2 team to help #1 team both owned by Mr Dietrich Mateschitz. Whether this is acceptable or not, is not my call however it is a significant precedence having a one team aiding another team that could get worse and politics between teams could escalate if this becomes common practice.
      It has been done before for the sake of supporting same PU manufacture but this brings it to a whole other level, it’s essentially a 4 car team. While it doesn’t sound that massive of a blocking defense game for Gasly with the paddock wall quickly instructing Gasly to let Verstappen pass but gets heavily involved when it came to Bottas, who was on a different strategy.
      Teams do it in F1 but the question is, should it be ok for #2 team to do it to aid #1 team?

      1. @redpill

        Teams do it in F1 but the question is, should it be ok for #2 team to do it to aid #1 team?

        I think that’s a great question. The more ‘technical partnerships’ and ‘B teams’ a front running acquires, the bigger the tactical advantage. Heck, if Red Bull partners up with another team as engine partner, they control 30% of the grid. Imagine one out of 3 cars just moving out of the way to let a Red Bull driver through, or, a driver from another team sacrificing their race to help a parent team win.

        To be honest, I thought in Brazil 2012 as well, we had a Toro Rosso driver move over for Sebastian to make his way through… followed by Vettel’s buddy Schumi Sr., who slowed down to parking speeds to let Vettel by. If they had raced Vettel like any other competitor, it’s questionable whether Seb would have won the title that year.

        If I were the FIA, I’d introduce a very clear directive on whether it’s legal or not. If they deem it legal, it would be a shame for racing and the sport in general, but if they deem it illegal, there’s no real way of minoring it either.

        1. *monitoring it either

        2. @todfod

          if they deem it illegal, there’s no real way of monitoring (fixed from your correction) it either

          This is the issue. I don’t think anyone considers it acceptable for 2 teams to work together on track (e.g. RBR/AT), or for a driver to treat other drivers differently because of which team they are driving for (e.g. TWs comments on GR/VB). However, it would be near impossible to police. There would be back room discussions between teams, and agreements behind closed doors with drivers, leading to the same situation we had over Team Orders.

          Drivers already behave differently towards different drivers based on behaviour, and likely based on their personal feelings towards them. There would be no way to prove, without a fairly obvious radio message, that a person fought Driver A harder than Driver B because of inter-team orders rather than personal choice, or that they did so in letting driver B though instead of because if they fought that driver it would slow them down or they would be more likely to crash into them.

  3. Ocon taking out the raceleader ( advantage Hamilton, won de race) 2018 Brazil
    Ocon letting Hamilton pass easy (see article)
    Russell: “Wolff reminds Russell he is a Mercedes junior driver” (Bottas crash)

    “The whole situation should have never happened,” Toto Wolff said. “Valtteri had a bad first 30 laps, and shouldn’t have been there. But George should have never launched into this manoeuvre, considering that the track was drying up. It meant taking risks, and the other car is a Mercedes in front of him. In any driver’s development, for a young driver, you must never lose this global perspective. So yeah, lots to learn for him I guess.”

    Toto placing drivers at other teams ( Loke Bottas with AR)
    And yes, the multi 21 call by Red Bull is well known, but the “Valterri its James” approach is the Mercedes standard by now.
    I can imagine its not your race when a way faster car is approaching and defending could hurt your track position.
    In the case of Gasly, he was not racing Max and max approached very quickly . Bottas on the other hand did not expected Verstappen and by his own words, was unable to pass in the same style.

    So, yes there will be always situations where a driver does or does not fight for position. It depends on the track situation, the person chasing you, your own tactics etc..

    1. But that’s toto and its always okay for him to do the things everyone criticizes others for

    2. In a certain way it is fascinating to read in all your posts how you see the world through your orange tinted spectacles.

    3. It’s such a shock to see you dismissing all the RBR-based examples while condemning all the Mercedes-based ones. I would never have expected that!

      Sarcasm mode disengaged

  4. Only refer to Ocon in Monaco? There many drivers who let Verstappen drive past in Monaco.

    There would be more of an actual problem if radio traffic indicated that Ocon was told to let Hamilton pass. Like how Gasly was indicated to let Verstappen past. It’s funny to see how they code it though. I guess they do fear to flat out tell Gasly that he should let Verstappen past.

    1. Just a reminder that Ocon said to Italian television in Monaco (when asked if he deliberately let Hamilton pass) “I’m a mercedes driver, so you should ask my boss (referred to Toto”

      1. I think there’s a difference between a driver making a decision for himself to aid a driver from another team, in hopes of improving his promotion prospects (or even just because they prefer one driver over another), and the other team (or their own) asking them to. A driver can, really, choose how hard they fight any particular car on the track and they often do fight different drivers/cars differently for a variety of reasons. It would be very difficult to prove they had done so in order to assist one driver/team in the championship without knowledge of the team specifically asking them to do so.

        At the end of the day, though, while ever there are teams with such massive influence over both drivers and other teams, these situations will occur. It isn’t nice, and I’m sure we will get some who cross the line and are penalised for it, but we pretty much have to accept it. Try to ban it, and the teams will find a way around it: Just look at the team orders ban…

        1. @drmouse

          Well, we know that Toto gave instructions to Russell to race differently against Mercedes. Ocon’s statements suggests that he was similarly instructed.

          Perhaps Marko has also instructed the AlphaTauri drivers to not race Max, but I haven’t seen any clear evidence of this.

          1. @aapje

            We all know that such arrangements exist at AT and other teams, even if they are not specifically talked of. If a ban was brought in, that would be the state for all such arrangements: They would just be done behind closed doors, with no discussion of them in public. They would still exist. Again, see the team orders ban.

            Personally, I’d prefer it if these arrangements didn’t exist at all, if all teams and all drivers could treat each other the same on track without think about supply contracts, career progression, sponsorship, friendship, championship positions, or the behaviour of the other driver, but that isn’t ever going to happen. If a driver is in negotiations to get a seat at a better team next year, they are likely to be more careful around those drivers. If a team is trying to negotiate a new supply contract with another, they will not want to upset them.

            The best thing I could see for this situation is to encourage everyone to be open about such arrangements. At least then everyone knows what the situation is.

          2. @drmouse

            Do we actually know this, or are you just assuming?

          3. @aapje

            There is evidence that AT drivers drive differently around RBR drivers, as there is evidence from multiple drivers/teams doing the same for others throughout the years. I think it’s very naive, at best, to assume that there is no such arrangement, especially with RBR/AT given that they have the same owner and both have Helmut Marko handling the drivers.

            I guess it depends on how you want to look at it. I couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt, but I reckon there’s enough evidence that, on the balance of probabilities, it is safe to assume that such an arrangement exists. I will take that as good enough until I see compelling evidence to contradict it, while acknowledging that I may be proved wrong at some point in the future.

          4. @drmouse

            I don’t think that AlphaTauri drivers act very differently between Max and Lewis, in a way that makes it obvious. If AlphaTauri has a competitive car, they (or rather Gasly) seems to race for a top result, rather than as a wing man for Red Bull. And if AlphaTauri isn’t competitive, they don’t seem to be extremely aggressive in trying to hold up Mercedes drivers. It’s not like Bottas tends to breeze past cars and then only gets stuck behind an AlphaTauri. Bottas has a tendency to get stuck in general, unless he has a big car advantage, in which case an AlphaTauri couldn’t even defend if they wanted to (because it would just be a DRS overtake on the straights).

            There may be differences in the margins, but I think that this article and many comments are exaggerating it.

            Of course, it is clear that there is pressure on drivers and teams to not crash out or defend too aggressively against drivers from allied teams, but that is not the same thing as explicit orders. Again, I’ve seen no evidence of explicit orders by Marko or Horner to AlphaTauri or their drivers, but I have seen evidence that Toto ordered Russell to drive differently against Merc drivers.

            I do think that there is a substantial ethical difference between people acting on incentives that happen to exist vs people intentionally increasing those incentives, by giving explicit orders.

  5. But, but, but We race as one. Maybe they should suspend that pre-race bs for the rest of the season?

  6. Being an engineering competition mixed with a performance/driving competition, F1 is built to be political. You almost couldn’t design it to be more political if you tried.

    From wikipedia: “Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, ‘affairs of the cities’) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals…”

    So watch F1 knowing this, and enjoy it for what it is. It /IS/ a political drama, by design. Stuff like anticipating “what will Gasly do”, IS the good part of F1. With some wheel to wheel racing moments mixed in. For less political racing (although almost all racing has at least some politics, because it is expensive), there are many other series you can add to your viewing.

    1. Well said.

    2. Very true.

      This is also why I find it hilarious when people say they want to “keep politics out of F1″… It’s already packed with politics and always has been.

  7. F1 needs every driver fighting. Would we have got the drama of Brazil ’08 if Vettel had decided to not fight Hamilton? How much further drama were we denied in Brazil ’12 when Schumacher waved Vettel by?

    I watch F1 to see the 20+ best drivers in the world scrapping it out. I’m not interested in watching drivers who are paid up by third parties to pick and choose who to fight. I’d like to see the FIA come down hard on any outside interference in the championship.

    1. @cduk_mugello Vettel got waved by three times that race (Toro Rossos + MSC). Although they likely would not have had a huge impact on his overall race time, it might have been the difference between 6th and 8th that race, which is winning the title vs. not winning the title. One Toro Rosso even accidentally almost let him through at a yellow flag zone in his haste.

  8. You want a real-life Game of Thrones, without literal war and killing, as a mass spectator product….it would be hard to beat F1. So maybe it is better that they do not try to sterilize the political nature of it. Instead they could embrace it and promote it.

    IndyCar, on the other hand, is a different ethos, and should probably keep striving to minimize politics affecting the racing decisions.

    And I’ll watch both, every time.

  9. Ocon isn’t Mercedes-contracted, though, as he’s 100% under contract at Alpine.
    Albon’s case is (or should be) pretty clear: He’ll be 100% under contract at Williams rather than on loan like Sainz at Renault, while the only RB reference Capito recently mentioned is a brand division separate from the F1 team, i.e., a personal sponsor, which isn’t really any different from some other drivers having personal sponsors over time.
    Overall, I don’t think anything deep is in this matter. Most cases are/have probably been a mere coincidence.
    Drivers generally try and battle for a position against anyone without thinking a lot about who/which team is in question, etc.

    1. Just a reminder that Ocon said to Italian television in Monaco (when asked if he deliberately let Hamilton pass) “I’m a mercedes driver, so you should ask my boss (referred to Toto)”

    2. When drivers are in tire/fuel management mode, their minds do become more think-y and less race-y. I agree that when in the heat of racing, it is hard for us to not race hard (racing is an addiction after all), but when we are just buying laps in the middle, we do sometimes consider other stuff.

  10. I don’t expect any interference of any lasting consequence. But I did get a chuckle out of the concept that PG was holding VB up. VB has so little race craft, I doubt PG was trying very hard if at all.

    1. @robbie True. And the same, mutatis mutandis, with Bottas ‘holding up’ Verstappen (I’m sure there’s an ‘allow to breeze past’ button on Bottas’s steering wheel…)

      1. @david-br Lol, he has a special DRS button…Duel Reduction System.

        1. The “crash out the top 5 of the championship except your team mate” button? ;)

          His “omission” of braking in time may not have been “aimed” at improperly altering the result or running of a competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of said competition, nor might he have been “aiming” to obtain an undue advantage for oneself or others (in this case Lewis), but it certainly had an effect in that direction.

          1. I find all the suggestions that Bottas did this on purpose (which your use of quotes clearly does) laughable.

            What you are implying is that Bottas is such a great driver that he can, effectively, perform a “trick shot”, judging the timing of a lock up and the actions of all the cars around him perfectly to collect the drivers he wanted, while avoiding hitting his own team mate (who he came within centimetres of taking out). That’s like trying to knock over only certain pins in bowling, leaving the rest standing, while both you and the pins are moving at high speed, and both the pins and can independently change their direction/behaviour, and it’s chucking it down. If he were that good, I would expect his race results to be better than they are…

    2. @robbie

      Indeed, I thought the same thing. If I were a driver in a lower performing car, I would also be far more willing to let Max past in a place where that would cost me little time, than have him overtake me in a way that costs way more time. Max would generally get past anyway.

      On the other hand, Bottas is so poor at overtaking that there is a much bigger chance of keeping him behind permanently, even without compromising your lap times all that much (or at all), so it makes more sense to not let him past.

      Also, the threat of rain is a factor as well. Bottas tends to be poor in the rain, while Max is quite good. So if it rains, you might not want to be stuck behind Bottas, who’d you then have to overtake, while Max would most likely not be a hindrance (since he’d be off in the distance).

  11. These satellite F1 teams are starting to annoy me. Especially seing Williams, a constructor that has won 9 WCC titles, playing the supporting role to Mercedes, makes me angry and sad.
    Alpha Tauri was always going to play the supporting role to RB, that’s why they bought Minardi in the first place. Still, it doesn’t make it any better.

    That wasn’t the case in the early ’00s when nearly every team was backed by an engine manufacturer – Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes, BMW-Williams, Renault, Toyota, Ford-Cosworth-Jaguar, BAR-Honda;
    The downside to that was of course that it was very hard to get a competitive engine and teams lower down the grid often had to take what they could get and that sometimes meant a deficit of 50+ bhp.

  12. Hamilton has: Bottas, Ocon, Russell and ?
    Verstapen has: Perez, Gasly and Tsunoda and ?

    Could you argue if things got really serious all Merc backed drivers will help Hamilton? Alonso in the Verstapen camp? Ferrari – which way would they like to see it go?

    If you had to place each drive in one camp, which one does each support?

    1. Vettel for Hamilton and Alonso for Verstappen, maybe?

      1. Postreader

        Vettel for Hamilton and Alonso for Verstappen, maybe?

        It lacks solid evidence.

      2. Yes,

        Hamilton has Lando, Ric, Vetted, Stroll, Lafiti aswell, courtesy of there Merc powered cars.

        The real question is who Ferrari powered drivers might back?

        1. Lando and Riccardo aren’t moving for Lewis but also not for Max. Will they defend hard not this year if they have a good car expect harder defending.

    2. Verstappen has Bottas

    3. Think you made a mistake there? You put Bottas in the Ham camp.

      I would put a question mark against Gasly being 100% behind Max.
      Hopefully the past remarks about McLarens subservient role re Mercedes can be put to bed after Sochi. Well, when I said hopefully, I obviously meant not a chance.

    4. Bottas proved in Sochi that he is racing for Max now. The rest of people in your dont give a rat’s about Lewis. Not even George. In Imola George should have pull aside but instead he made Lewis life harder. It’s LH100 against the world at this point.

      1. Nobody cares about Hamilton. They are all in team Max. Except maybe Ocon and Leclerc since they have personal beef with Max. All others just want to see this dominance end and one guy getting way too much lead in statistics which is frankly not doing justice to the sports great history. Alonso and Vettel have even publicly said it on TV. Of course they want this strange decade to end. Everybody wants that except Mercedes and Lewis fans

  13. This article is strangely complicated. But that is caused by the title: ‘How many drivers are taking sides… aso.’
    That title suggests an article about driver-friendships on the current grid. In contrast the story is more about teams and team-bosses, team orders and hidden agenda’s, trough the years. It is more about: ‘do not bite the hand that feeds you’, than it is about drivers relations. The so called Bromanses.
    Do you remember a driver called Horatio Melancholis who had a rivalry with the Chinese horseman Yui Siu Tse La?
    One of them was riding a Ferrari horse and the other was payed by British Petroleum to crash his rival, so who did what?… and… was it raining that day? A correct answer wins you 10 points, a wrong answer is punished with a grid penalty of 3 places. Cheers.

  14. Nothing showed the intra-teams connections more than Mercedes interfering in the Williams choice of drivers now, or even blowing up at Russell after the Imola crash. As if George was really a Mercedes driver who should know his place.

    But we also saw Norris let Hamilton by in the Styria race with the same argument as Gasly now. Yes, he fought harder in the following Austrian race, but then Verstappen was miles ahead.

    1. @balue Yet Mercedes did not interfere with Albon taking a seat at Williams. While Ocon was blocked from taking a seat at Red Bull affiliated teams by Horner.

      1. Yet Mercedes did not interfere with Albon taking a seat at Williams.

        So you obviously missed several weeks of toto nonsense…
        Including special contract articles

        1. Indeed, there were plenty and surprise, he lied, we will not block albon at williams, and then he did.

  15. I just made a search for “Norberto Fontana” in this articles and yet there wasn’t none. Anyway, this is not a new subject either.

    1. Not being new, it’s totally valid.

  16. I sure hope F1 and the teams don’t make themself rediculous to let other drivers interfere with the WDC. Letting someone by relative easy is one thing but what if the WDC is decided by a kamikaze move from one of the other drivers. You could argue Bottas already did it in Hungary but that clearly was a (stupid) racing accident.
    So let them race but fair and with respect that is wat the fans want to see. If a teammate or other driver would interfere in a negative way many F1 fans would feel robbed of a good championship battle.

  17. Of course other drivers will play a role in any title fight. Drivers will always assist drivers they like and make life difficult for drivers they dislike or don’t want to see do well.

    Here are my wild guesses :-)

    Perez? Hmm, tough one. Ideally, I suspect he’d want Hamilton to win the WDC and he’d the one to decide the WCC.

    Bottas? Who knows what’s going on in his mind? At this point, I’m not sure he knows either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts getting his elbows out on track with Mazepin and wave everyone else by.

    Leclerc? I’d say he would prefer it if Verstappen didn’t win.

    Sainz? I’d say Hamilton.

    Lando? I’m not sure about him – he blocked Lewis and Bottas in a couple of races at the start and gave up the lead at Sochi to do so.

    Ricciardo? I would think he’d prefer it if Max didn’t win.

    Alonso? I’d say he favors Max but Max really can’t expect any favors from him.

    Ocon? Hamilton but it all depends on what’s on the line for him.

    Vettel? I’m sure he’d prefer that Hamilton wins.

    Stroll? Not sure he has a favorite.

    Russell? I’d lean towards Hamilton this season.

    Gasly? I suspect he’d love to see Hamilton win but he might have to play ball.

    Tsunoda? I guess he’ll play ball and get out of the way.

    Kimi Raikonnen? In quiet voice (Hamilton)

    Giovinazzi? not sure

    1. Nell (@imabouttogoham)
      1st October 2021, 1:55

      Alonso is in it for himself, as a great racing driver should be.

      He blocked Hamilton in Hungary because he wanted to score more points than him. He overtook Verstappen in Sochi because he wanted to score more points than him. Same with Lando actually.

      As an aside, Hamilton might do a Schumi and help out Norris if the latter ever becomes a WDC contender and the former isn’t in contention. But I think that scenario requires a lot of factors that isn’t forthcoming anytime soon.

      1. Lando helped out Hamilton earlier this year in one if the Austria races. Merc powered cars will probably e coherced by Toto at some point, if not already to play ball….

    2. @freelittlebirds

      Lando? I’m not sure about him – he blocked Lewis and Bottas in a couple of races at the start and gave up the lead at Sochi to do so.

      How can you be so sure of that? For someone as superstitious as you who believes Hamilton is predestined to win (not a testable assumption) it doesn’t come as a surprise to comment such nonsense like if only one path could have been taken in the 2021 Russian GP start. But as the slipstream is very powerful in Sochi’s main straight, had Norris not commited to the right-handed inside of the corner, he could very well have ended up behind both Sainz and Russell.
      But why care about what could have been. Everything is already written according to you so Hamilton couldn’t have done anything better, isn’t it? You can’t improve what’s perfect and blessed by some esoteric force, ain’t it right? :-) [here your favourite optimistic face]

  18. Lando to me has no business racing HAMILTON at this juncture. He has no chance of WDC title this year unless both Hamilton and Vesterpen have a string of DNFs..
    so LANDO should just be looking at the bigger picture instead of trying to be a hero like in sochi ..even not listening to his engineer ..telling them to shut up..WHEN they told him to box for tyres.

    1. What was he thinking going for the win, right?

    2. 1. Who is Vesterpen?
      2. Why should drivers who are not in contention for the WDC anymore not be allowed to maximise their and their team’s WDC/WCC points by racing the drivers who are still in contention for the WDC?

    3. You forget McLaren needs the points against Ferarri so they will take what they can get but this year i don’t expect they defend Lewis and Max hard by wheelbanging (Monza)
      And other teams should care what Red Bull or Mercedes does they are driving for themself now as every point is important

      I think Lando had tunnelvision as he really wanted his first win….

    4. Literally, it is Lando’s business to race. That is what he is paid to do.

  19. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    1st October 2021, 6:50

    While it having 2 teams on the grid clearly favours red bull , I’ve rarely seen AT helping them out strategy-wise or jumping out of the way when the senior team cars appear in the mirrors. Max spent 4-5 laps behind Gasly in Russia before he managed to ‘get past’. I was quite surprised the order to waive him past did not immediately turn up within a lap. Not letting go and specifically blocking a car are 2 different things as this article highlights.

    I don’t know how much of a B-team Williams is to Mercedes, but they definitely haven’t done Hamilton/Merc any favours this year. It was Russell who led the DRS train of Ricciardo-Hamilton-Perez, allowing Sainz and Norris to get away scot free in the lead.

    Pretty sure with the growing influence of top teams over the lower ones, there have been discussions behind the scenes to make the title fights as fair as possible or risk facing heavy sanctions trying to fix the results of the championship.

    1. @asleepatthewheel

      Indeed. I think that there is too much conspiracy thinking on this topic. Ultimately, each team races for their own results. These things play more of a role at the margins, like not being as eager to fight another car or not being willing to risk a crash at much. But these are hard to tease out from other reasons why drivers might not want to fight another car or risk a crash.

  20. I don’t like this concept and the broadcasted message was a bit cringeworthy. But we have seen this a lot before where midfield drivers wave through a faster car because they are very tire limited. Can’t ruin the tire to have 2 glory laps keeping the faster car behind. I don’t like that either. With proper tires they might defend more? Anyway, the funny part with Gasly in Russia was that they were actually right. He WAS racing Bottas. Up until it rained anyway…

  21. These kind of articles are fun to read but not necessarily journalism. Lots of coloring of narrative and even more assumptions. Its perfectly ok here in this case as I consider this site to be a collection of columns/opinion articles, rather than journalism since the bias is so obviois all uear round. It does get blurry sometimes since other items are pure reporting (like grid line up articles). Would be good to explicitly indicate what is reporting and what is mere individual opinion.

    1. Looking at the name of the author usually is a nice indicator.
      Like this one.

    2. I think that’s ungenerous. These kind of articles frame a debate and seem primarily intended for btl discussion. It’s a totally valid question – do other teams or drivers assist the title-fighting teams? If so, how and in exchange for what? Does it make much difference to the race results? The ‘evidence’ is in a sense non-journalistic by nature, deciding whether a driver has more effort or less effort into defending (or overtaking) than ‘usual’. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

  22. Running out of topics? This has been happening for a very long time… Mercedes B Teams, RB B Team, Ferrari B Team(sort off).

  23. i think the powerful team with overcome the less powerful team

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