The Austrian Grand Prix could be a defining moment of the 2016 Formula 1 season. In a way, Mercedes created the problem themselves in Austria because they should never really have allowed Rosberg to pass Hamilton through strategy. Lewis had enough of a lead to come out ahead, even with a slow stop, a few laps after Rosberg stopped. Yes the Ferrari’s were on a different strategy, but they ended up paying a heavy price for their gamble when Vettel’s tyre exploded.
Back to the Mercedes drivers though.
Rosberg made a fundamental driving error at turn 1, hitting the inside kerb, meaning he exited the corner much slower. He then followed it up with a moment of stupidity, by deliberately not turning into turn 2 at a reasonable point when Hamilton was alongside and entitled to “racing room”. Lewis was clearly leaving Nico room to run wider, which is fair and expected. You would have to seriously question Rosberg’s title winning credentials had he not.
Rosberg has a contract on the table for next season but intentionally causing a collision that had robbed Mercedes of a slam dunk 1-2 finish on the last lap, could have put that in severe jeopardy. He might not have been fully to blame for the Spain collision, but this was pretty clear cut. Had it ended in disaster for the Silver Arrows (which it almost did when Nico didn’t allow Hamilton to rejoin safely), Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda may have had a hand on the contract, slowly withdrawing it from the table.
Elite sportsmen and women are competitive animals who will do almost anything to win. It’s not about playing nice, its about winning and doing what’s best for you. That said, there is a large element of fairness and conduct in all sports. In Formula 1, the number 1 rule is don’t crash into other drivers. Hitting the wall is No. 2. Rosberg toe’d the line and forced Hamilton over it.
So where does this leave the team?
The last thing the Mercedes team want to do is implement team orders. While not banned anymore, they would retract from the overall show and deny us more drama, as in Austria. They want to see the drivers race and win it on track, Toto Wolff has openly expressed this on many occasion. But they also have to think away from the track and how the brand of Mercedes is affected by on track events.
Personally, I think both drivers need to be trusted to race correctly. Should this trust be broken again or repeatedly, one if not both could be on their way out of a championship winning team and car. And neither would want that to happen.