BERLIN – Ferrari got the call right while Mercedes believe they also made the correct decision even if it costs them the championship as team orders played a key role in the outcome of Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel, struggling with a steering problem, held off Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen to win at the Hungaroring, with the faster Finn acting as a buffer between the German four-time Formula One champion and the attacking Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
In the end Hamilton honoured a deal proposed during the race to give third place back to team-mate Valtteri Bottas, although the Briton was the faster of the two.
It was also a move with considerable risk as Bottas was some way behind and had Red Bull’s Max Verstappen closing fast behind him on fresher tyres.
The decision has cost Hamilton an additional three points to championship rival Vettel, which could prove crucial at the end of the season. Will Mercedes come to regret it?
“It is tough for the championship but I’m a man of my word,” Hamilton said.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff accepted after the race that the team could look naive at the end of the season if Hamilton loses the title by three points.
But he added: “These are the values that helped us win six championships and, in the long term, it is the approach that will win us many more titles – even though it was a tough call to make and it’s not a great feeling afterwards. But we stick to our principles and our word.”
Mercedes have always said their philosophy is to allow the drivers to race until it becomes clear only one of them can realistically win the title. Ferrari have long taken the opposite approach.
Hamilton explained: “I have said through this year that I want to win this title in the right way – and perhaps I will look at it in a different way if, at the end of the season, I lose out by a small margin.
“But I believe in doing the right thing and that when you put good things out there, they come back to you.”
Ferrari’s tactics have again shown that Vettel is their number one. Raikkonen could have gone faster but could not risk overtaking on the tight and twisty circuit – and unlike Mercedes there were no team orders in his favour.
Vettel has now gone from a slender one-point lead to a 14-point advantage over Hamilton as F1 takes a break before the Belgian Grand Prix on August 27. Vettel is on 202 points to Hamilton’s 188, with Bottas on 169.
Ferrari could also celebrate their first one-two in Hungary since Michael Schumacher led home Rubens Barrichello in 2004. That was the last time the winner in Hungary also went on to win the world title in the same year.
“In my opinion, we have the best car and downforce which, hasn’t been the case for many years,” Vettel said.
The race was also notable for an early collision between the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, with the latter having to retire. Verstappen, who was handed a 10-second penalty for the collision, later apologised to his team-mate.
After a season full of problems, McLaren meanwhile had reason to cheer at last after both their cars were in the points for the first time this season – Fernando Alonso finishing sixth and setting the fastest lap, with Stoffel Vandoorne 10th.