The Inside Line #50: The greater good

TILI Logo PrintPerson of the day at last Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix? No, it wasn’t Lewis Hamilton, nor was it Nico Rosberg. It wasn’t Sergio Perez for taking Force India’s second-ever podium. It wasn’t Daniel Ricciardo for his career-best result. And it certainly wasn’t Pastor Maldonado [1].

No, person of the day at Sakhir last weekend was none other than Mercedes executive director (technical) Paddy Lowe, and I’ll even excuse the brackets in his job title. It was because Lowe, and by association, the Mercedes pit wall, let their drivers race to the flag. Miles ahead of anyone else, much to lose, little to gain. But let them race they did.

We’ve seen all sorts of team orders in F1 in recent times – the team order that masks a pre-determined plan (“Fernando is faster than you”), the team order that was blatantly ignored by one of the two people it was directed towards (“Multi-21”), and the team order that’s delivered unnecessarily and without consideration of consequence (as in Williams at Sepang a week ago) [2].

And then there was Lowe’s response when asked about allowing Hamilton and Rosberg to produce one of the most thrilling battles we’ve seen for the lead of any Grand Prix – let alone one between teammates – in recent memory. Think ‘Multi-21’ but with both drivers actually racing, not one driving with one hand while trying to remove a knife from his back with the other hand. And for most of the race, not a few laps.

After the race, Lowe held court – and it was hard to be anything other than impressed with the way he spoke.

“Imagine if we had imposed team orders from lap two or something; what a terrible thing that would be for F1 and for the philosophy of Mercedes in motorsport,” he began. “It is something that we owe to ourselves; we owe to the sport and owe to the drivers. They are professionals and you want to give them the opportunity to race, which is what they do. They are experienced drivers, they know what it takes. I gave them a little bit of a reminder during the safety car that it is all about bringing the car home, but that didn’t mean don’t race – it just meant there is a line not to cross which is if you endanger the car. They did a perfect job of that.”

The fight at the front in Bahrain – and plenty of others right through the field – is front and centre on this week’s episode of ‘The Inside Line’. It’s a race that will surely be talked about for a long time to come, and if driving in modern-day Formula One is like “taxi-cab driving” as Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo suggests [3], I’d take Lewis or Nico to get me home pronto from a late night out any time …

Fortunately, you won’t need to stay up to the early hours to be able to watch Episode 50 of ‘The Inside Line’, which you can catch on SPEED TV Australia (Foxtel/Austar channel 512) at 7pm AEDT on Wednesday April 9, and on ESPN (Foxtel/Austar channel 508 in Australia) at 9.30pm AEDT Thursday April 10.

—————

[1] Hands-up anyone who was surprised that the reason for Esteban Gutierrez ending up with an interesting view of Bahrain’s floodlights was Maldonado? Yep, thought so.

[2] Speaking of hands … full credit to Williams for putting theirs up to apologise to its drivers for the cack-handed way the Malaysia team orders request was handled. Not many teams would have done that.

[3] I was once driven to the airport after the race in Abu Dhabi by a cabbie who (a) smoked using one hand (b) was sending txts with the other and (c) was travelling faster than anyone steering the F14-T in Bahrain last Sunday. Fernando Alonso’s frustration levels must be off the charts. And how long until Kimi Raikkonen decides it’s all too hard and starts making noises about the World Rally Championship again? In a related story, Nico Hulkenberg is now third in the drivers’ championship.

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