Hamilton’s decision to defy team orders upsets management


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.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”