Ever since F1’s regulations were overhauled ahead of the 2014 F1 season, Mercedes have been the class of the field. A brace of Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles have been achieved in dominant fashion, with 701 and 703 points amassed by the team in 2014 and 2015 respectively. While 2016 has seen Nico Rosberg claim four victories from a possible four and Mercedes secure two one-two finishes, unreliability has hindered them, particularly on Lewis Hamilton’s side of the garage.
Following accusations that the team are deliberately favouring Rosberg this season, Mercedes have written an open letter to the fans looking to quell the speculation.
To provide some context, Hamilton has faced as much misfortune in the opening four rounds of 2016 than he did throughout the entirety of the 2015 season. Two MGU-H failures – identical in nature – have derailed his qualifying efforts in China and Russia, while collisions with Valtteri Bottas in Bahrain and Felipe Nasr in China have seen his charge on a Sunday significantly hindered twice.
On Sunday in Russia, having recovered to second place following his Saturday dramas, the Briton faced yet more mechanical misery, as his W07 began losing water pressure. The team has since revealed that for the final 16 laps, the World Champion was running on empty where water is concerned. It was a remarkable feat, therefore, to simply finish the race.
The latest in a catalogue of issues did, however, curtail his chances of catching Rosberg. Cue a number of Hamilton fans to accuse the team of deliberately compromising their champion, in order to open the door for Rosberg to swoop in and secure his maiden drivers’ title.
Branded as “lunatics” by Toto Wolff, the skeptics have prompted Mercedes to release an open letter today, in which they highlight why such accusations are outrageous and entirely untrue.
The letter read, “For those watching at home, a Grand Prix weekend starts on a Thursday morning and ends on Sunday night. A bad result might hurt for a few hours afterwards but then life moves on. For more than one thousand people at Brackley and Brixworth, however, this is our life.
“These men and women pour their blood, sweat and tears into racing, day in, day out – often working around the clock and spending weeks at a time away from their loved ones. To paraphrase Mr Toto Wolff, we have worked out a**es off to get to where we are today – and we have done so as a team.”
This team message is a feature running throughout the letter. Much has been made of the fact that Mercedes have switched many of Rosberg and Hamilton’s mechanics – including their number one mechanics – over the winter in order to dispel some of the tension that may have been building due to the inter-team rivalry.
Critics have argued that this has indirectly disadvantaged Hamilton, who now has the inferior mechanics working on his car. This particular issue is quite rightly tackled head on, with the letter continuing, “There is no ‘A’ or ‘B’ team here. Every single member of the crew has earned their right to be counted among the elite of their trade – and have sacrificed much to do so.
“Through all of this, we stand united as a team – just as we always have. To those who stand with us, we thank you. And to the rest – the haters, the naysayers, the conspirators – if we can convince even half of you of what we really stand for, we’ll consider that a battle well won.”
The fact that Mercedes have stayed united given the intensity of the Hamilton and Rosberg rivalry over the past two seasons, is quite an achievement. The garage dividing barrier – the like of which was made famous by Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo at the height of their rivalry in Moto GP – has been expertly avoided and Mercedes as a whole deserve plenty of credit for that.
As for “the haters” and “the naysayers,” it is hugely disappointing that their weight has required Mercedes to release this type of letter today. Any suggestions that a credible team would effectively sabotage the chances for one of their drivers – their reigning champion and hugely potent brand ambassador no less – are simply outrageous.
Mercedes’ reaction has been classy and direct. Hopefully the letter will be enough to prevent any such accusations making waves in the future.