Lewis Hamilton believes he has demonstrated how hungry he is to win his fourth Formula One world championship after his victory at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, achieved in a thrilling climax to the race after a final‑lap collision with his Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton had lost the lead to Rosberg when his team switched him from a one‑stop to a two-stop strategy. But Hamilton clawed his way back and put himself in a position to challenge the German on the final lap. Rosberg, who had a brake problem, was slow through turn one and Hamilton, on a charge, attempted to go round the outside of him at turn two. Rosberg did not turn in and the pair clashed. Hamilton went on to take the flag but Rosberg, who was judged by the stewards to have been at fault, lost his front wing and finished only fourth.
“I’m massively driven, hopefully this race has shown just how driven I am for this world championship,” said Hamilton, who has faced criticism this season that he is not as focused on the task at hand. “I want it as much, if not more, than I’ve wanted my other world championships and I actually love that it’s even harder to get because that makes you appreciate it more.”
He was also adamant that despite the controversy the incident caused – he was booed by fans after the race – that there would be no let-up in his determined approach. “You make a conscious decision to fight harder or you have doubt, and I had zero doubt in my mind,” he said. “I thought I’m going to go, do everything in my power, I might not win, but I’ll do everything, on the knife edge, over it and beyond.”
The Mercedes executive director, Toto Wolff, described the incident as “brainless”. He castigated both his drivers but refused to apportion blame in public. The pair knocked each other out of the race at Barcelona earlier in the year and Wolff said they were considering imposing team orders to prevent a repeat of that.
For Hamilton the possibility was an anathema but one he may have to accept. “I’ve been in that position before and it goes against all my racing values and rules and the foundation of what racing is about,” he said. “But ultimately I race for this team and I do want the best for the team. I’m the three-time world champion and my job is to do what they say.”
Hamilton’s win on Sunday means he trails the championship leader Rosberg by 11 points and could overhaul him in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this week. Mercedes have allowed the pair to race until now enlivening their almost lone two-car battle at the front of the grid. Hamilton believes team orders would deny fans the thrill of a racing contest.
“I will pray and hope that’s not the situation,” he said. “Firstly for myself because that would take the joy of racing out and second for the fans because it will rob the fans of what they pay so much for. They save up all year to go to the Silverstone Grand Prix. Team orders is not something that should deprive them. Even if it’s the other way around and the other guy’s coming for me, that’s racing. That’s why you turn up and you sit in the mud in the camper van in Silverstone, because you have that passion and that fire, the same thing I felt in Austria.”
The former world champion Jacques Villeneuve believes the team will have difficulty managing the situation. “They both have contracts where they are allowed to fight for the championship,” he said. “So how do you impose team orders? It’s not Ferrari where you have a clear No1. Even if they don’t follow orders what do you do? Leave them home for a race?”
Villeneuve has personal experience of the issues involved. His father Gilles was killed in an accident at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder in 1982 trying to beat the qualifying time of his Ferrari team-mate Didier Pironi. At the previous race, the San Marino Grand Prix, Villeneuve was furious when Pironi defied team orders based on a handshake-agreement to take the lead on the final lap to win. “At the time of my dad it was whoever is in the lead stays in the lead,” he said, suggesting that limited orders may be imposed. “That’s fine then you know you have to qualify better and make a better start. You still have a chance to be ahead.”
However, Villeneuve, who won the title for Williams in 1997, hinted that politics may also play a role. “There is a part of Mercedes that prefers to win the championship with Nico,” he said. “Because then it would be Mercedes winning and not just Lewis, so image-wise, politically, it would be better as they would have two world champions in the car not just one. So Lewis has to think about that as well.”
He did not, however, believe the strategy would be imposed to benefit Rosberg. “I don’t think team orders will go that far,” he said. “I think it would be whoever is leading 20 laps from the end, then you keep those positions. Then you know you have 40 laps to make the difference.”
Continuing to let them race, as the fans and the sport needs them to do, was the best solution for Villeneuve. “Both of them drove like champions, they went for it and decided to go for the move and take the risk, nothing wrong with that, we should be happy that it’s happening,” he added.
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