The chaotic scenes at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix were just another part of the increasingly hostile battle for the Drivers Championship between the two Mercedes drivers.
For the last two seasons Nico Rosberg has been overshadowed by Lewis Hamilton, and after a strong start to the season that saw him take maximum points from the first four races he is in the strongest position he has ever been in to claim his first Drivers Championship. But after closing the door aggressively on Hamilton in Spain – which resulted in both of them crashing out and a brief coming together in the first corner in Canada it seems that Rosberg is ready to take no prisoners this year. That was evident when, after getting turn one wrong on the final lap in Austria and leaving the door open for Hamilton going up into turn two. Hamilton got beyond Rosberg on the outside but Rosberg turned in late, resulting in the coming together that left Rosberg limping home with a broken front wing in fourth place as Hamilton won.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was not happy in the immediate aftermath of his drivers once again coming together and has floated the idea of imposing team orders to prevent the drivers taking each other on on track.
“It makes me want to puke myself but if the racing is not possible without contact that is a consequence.” Wolff said “In Barcelona, I was much more at ease because we had 30 races without a collision. In my naive thinking I said to myself: ‘OK, they have learned the lesson and they saw the consequences and it is not going to happen again.’ here we go, it happens again, so the only consequence is to look at all the options on the table.”
While fans always want drivers to be able to go wheel to wheel on the track and duel for the win it is in Mercedes best interest to hold their drivers back. While they are yet to win a race in 2016, both Ferrari drivers are lurking in the standings and continually dropping points due to Rosberg and Hamilton clashing only leaves the door open for Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to sneak into the title picture.
Wolff has far more than the entertainment of the fans to consider, from Rosberg’s impending contract expiration to the corporate image of Mercedes worldwide and the cost – in lost prize money and labour to rebuild – of their drivers colliding. Any “hold station” call in the dying laps of a race would be a huge loss to the fans of the sport however. Team orders have never been popular, from the controversial last corner swap of Michael Schumacher & Rubens Barrichello in Austria 2002 to Red Bull’s orders against Mark Webber and Vettel, which Vettel famously disregarded in Malaysia in 2013. Fans want racing, not a team procession, and the situation that is brewing within Mercedes does not look like it will be to the benefit of the viewing public.