Split in Mercedes management over team orders

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Although much of the focus surrounded Red Bull’s team orders following the Malaysian Grand Prix, the internal relationships at Mercedes have also been tested following a contentious race last Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were in third and fourth place respectively, but the British driver was forced to save fuel, and was therefore holding his teammate up. Despite Rosberg asking to be let past, team principal Ross Brawn refused to let the drivers change position, which has received differing opinions from the team’s management.

Niki Lauda has criticized the decision, believing that the quicker driver should have been allowed to finish in P3.

“From a sporting perspective, that was wrong. They should have let [Nico Rosberg] go. We need to talk to Ross, if this is the strategy to be used from now on,” Lauda told The Times of London.

On the other side of the fence in Toto Wolff, who believes that there is no issue to be addressed.

“There was no controversy,” Wolff said. “Both had a bit of fuel issue and we were not sure if we could run them until the end and both of them were advised they had the issue.

“Nico showed that he is a fantastic team player and he held onto the position and we would have done it in the opposite way as well.”

Rosberg did not make his distaste public, but he did tell Brawn over the radio “I’ll remember this,” implying that should the inverse of the situation arise in the future, he would expect similar treatment.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “