ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Lewis Hamilton may have driven himself into trouble with his Mercedes team after defying direct orders near the end of Sunday’s gripping Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where the British driver lost his title to teammate Nico Rosberg in a nerve-shredding finale.
Hamilton won the race but needed Rosberg to finish outside of the top three in order to retain his title.
In order to further this bid, he used a technique known as backing up. It was designed to slow Rosberg down and allow pursuing drivers Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and Dutch teen Max Verstappen of Red Bull to catch up.
Had they both overtaken Rosberg, then Hamilton’s win would have been enough for the title. Vettel and Verstappen were right on Rosberg’s tail in the closing stages as Hamilton refused to accelerate – even after Mercedes asked him twice.
First of all, Hamilton ignored a race engineer’s request for him to speed up and then even rebuffed executive director Paddy Lowe’s explicit order to speed up.
“I’m in the lead right now,” he responded to Lowe. “I’m quite comfortable where I am.”
Wolff described Lowe’s intervention as “the highest escalation (procedure) we have.”
And he appeared to issue a warning.
“Anarchy doesn’t work in any team or any company,” he said. “Undermining a structure in public means you’re putting yourself before the team.”
Asked if Hamilton could face punishment, Wolff said: “I need to form an opinion, which I haven’t yet” and “everything’s possible.”
Rosberg’s view was diplomatic.
“You can understand the team’s perspective and you can understand Lewis’ perspective,” the German driver said. “So that’s it.”
Mercedes wanted Hamilton to speed up because it was concerned that Vettel was gaining ground and could have won the race.
Hamilton was totally unapologetic over the incident in the post-race news conference.
Instead, he openly complained about what he considered to be overly zealous interference.
“I don’t know why they just didn’t let us just race. There was never a moment where I thought I was going to lose the race,” Hamilton said. “It’s a bit of a shame they wouldn’t (just let us race). It’s clear (what) their thought process (is).”
Hamilton wasn’t finished.
“We had already won the constructors’ championship, so it was down to me and Nico today. However, they still felt that they needed to make comments,” Hamilton said. “I’m in a position where I’ve had a lot of points lost in the season, so for me I’m out there fighting.”
Hamilton’s latest reference to lost points is a continuation of previous complaints throughout the season with regards to the engine problems that cost him vital points. None more so than during the Malaysian GP, when his engine failed as he was closing in on an easy victory.
“When I look back on the season, if there’s anything to be negative about (it) would be cars failing in certain places,” Hamilton said on Thursday. “(With the same engine) as the car that wouldn’t stop during testing.”
On Thursday, Hamilton had also brought up another issue that still rankles with him.
Prior to the start of the season, Mercedes swapped several mechanics around from each side of the garage in a bid to end the divide that had been growing between the two drivers’ groups.
“You’ll have to buy my book … down the line … in 10 years’ time when I tell you exactly what happened,” the British driver said. “It will be an interesting read.”
In the immediate future, it will also be interesting to see how Mercedes handles this latest incident with Hamilton now that the season is over.