Mercedes too scared to let Hamilton and Rosberg race? What we learned in Brazil

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After another team orders storm grew between Nico Rosbergand Lewis Hamilton in Brazil, Will Gray asks why can’t they race, whether Ferrari is closing in, and if new engines could give the sport a rosy future.

THE TEAM ORDER CONUNDRUM

With both world titles won, you’d have thought Mercedes could give their drivers a bit more flexibility.

It seems not. And what a shame that is.

Hamilton is convinced he had the pace to beat Rosberg, but on a circuit with a DRS zone too short to achieve anything and little scope for overtaking elsewhere he needed an alternative way to get past.

Running in ‘dirty’ air behind Rosberg’s car, he struggled to find a way past and his tyres deteriorated more than his team-mate’s. His only option was to run a different race, pitting to escape the destabilising wake and hoping his speed would overcome a less optimum strategy.

The team refused, presumably wanting him to be a protective buffer to Rosberg and ensure the German secured second place in the drivers’ championship.

But the fact that third-placed Sebastian Vettel finished almost 15 seconds behind Rosberg, and that both Mercedes cars lapped everyone apart from the Ferraris adds to the argument that there was enough of a buffer to allow Hamilton a punt at a different strategy.

Sure, on tracks where overtaking is easier, the best entertainment comes from seeing the top drivers go wheel-to-wheel. But when all they are doing is following in procession, surely it’s better to mix it up a bit.

Rosberg argued it “wouldn’t be fair” for the second placed car to ‘luck out’ and win thanks to an unforeseen turn of events. But at least it might have been more fun…

ferrari

FERRARI CLOSING THE GAP?

Ferrari pointed out after the race that the gap between them and Mercedes has halved since Australia – so was Brazil a true indicator of a challenge on the horizon for the world champions?

The first thing to point out is that Mercedes, for some reason, were in another league at the season opener, so perhaps their advantage in Melbourne was disproportionately large.

But in Brazil there was no rain, no safety cars – and the Mercedes drivers, by all accounts, were pushing harder than ever.

The conditions made for a predictable and sensible race, with no surprise scenarios. So it is probably fair to see this as the best demonstration of how the two compare for race pace.

The fact that Ferrari’s fastest lap in the race was only two tenths back on the Mercedes best is another encouraging factor. So while it’s not conclusive, there Sunday’s race certainly gives some optimism for future competition.

MANOR MOVES

Talking of the future, Manor announced former McLaren man Dave Ryan is to join the team as racing director with rumours putting ex F1 racer Alex Wurz in alongside him at the helm.

It signals a new direction for the team – but is it a good one?

Graham Lowden and John Booth, both well-respected members of the paddock and indeed of the wider motorsport fraternity for many years, had steered a safe course since rescuing the team from the ashes of Marussia.

Manor Marussia

Driven by a strongly united staff, they may still be at the back of the grid, but they’re passionate racers and they’re trying damn hard to become competitive.

Next year, with a Mercedes engine deal and Williams engineering support, the team has the chance to shine.

And the continued stability of Lowden and Booth at the helm would surely have been a benefit.

Incoming Ryan was with McLaren for 30 years but left amid controversy over allegations of lying to the Australian Grand Prix stewards. Wurz, meanwhile, has never held a role in management of this kind.

Changing two key men at such a juncture is a big gamble. But for the sport, let’s hope it’s the right one.

THE RIGHT ENGINE NOTES?

Formula One looks set for a new double-engine formula after the sport’s bosses called for expressions of interest from potential manufacturers to produce a new low-cost unit – but is it the right direction to go?

One of the greatest eras was built on the Cosworth DFV engine, which was an off-the-shelf unit used by almost all the teams on the grid. It levelled the playing field and allowed rookie teams to mix it with the big boys.

Honda engine

But the plans for the new unit appear to be more focused on providing a cheaper but not necessarily so competitive engine for the smaller teams to help them survive – potentially halving the £15-20m cost of an current engine – but not prosper.

Even the small teams, however, are concerned that it will risk creating a two-tier formula – with an even bigger gulf between the teams that have their own engines and those who have to go with the stock option.

It can be argued, though, that F1 is already doing just that, with some teams running year-old cars and engines. Perhaps a low cost option to keep teams on the grid is a sensible one.

Author: EuroSports

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