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Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain is sprayed with champagne after placing third in the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Petr David Josek/AP)
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain is sprayed with champagne after placing third in the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, Sunday, July 27, 2014. (Petr David Josek/AP)

Motorsports

Why Lewis Hamilton wouldn't let F1 teammate Nico Rosberg pass Add to ...

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The feud between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is back on following Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix after the former disobeyed orders and cost his teammate a possible win.

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It happened late in the chaotic race that ended in controversy when Hamilton refused to let Rosberg pass with 20 laps to go – despite being told to do so several times by the team. Rosberg finished fourth, with Hamilton on the podium in third. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took his second win of 2014 while Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was second.

The stage for the showdown was set eight laps into the race, when Rosberg got caught out by a safety car, which was deployed following an accident just after he passed the pit entrance. That meant he had to stop for slicks on a drying track a lap after most of the field, which cost him the lead.

In response, the team switched him to a three pit-stop strategy which it thought would put him in a position to win. Judging from his late-race speed on new boots, it was a strategy that might have worked had Hamilton not had other ideas when the three-stopping Rosberg cruised up behind him.

With Rosberg needing to get past quickly before pitting a final time for tires, Hamilton refused to yield when the order to pull aside was given.

“Just because he had one more stop than me doesn’t mean I wasn’t in the same race as him,” said Hamilton, who narrowed Rosberg’s championship lead to 11 points. Drivers get 25 for a win.

“And naturally, if I’d have let him past, he would have had the opportunity to pull away and when he does pit, he’s going to come back and overtake me, so I was very, very shocked that the team would ask me to do that, to be able to better his position.”

Instead, Hamilton held his Mercedes teammate behind for 10 laps before Rosberg finally pitted for a scrubbed set of tires with 13 laps to go. Although some of the blame can be placed at Mercedes strategists for leaving Rosberg sitting in his teammate’s wake too long before bringing him in for tires, it didn’t matter in the end. By the time he did pit, it was too little, too late.

“The team informed that he was going to let me through but I don’t know what happened,” Rosberg said. “I’m still leading the championship, which is a positive thing, and I’ll be ready to attack again after the summer break.”

Rosberg emerged from his stop in seventh 23 seconds behind his teammate and began putting up lap times that were more than three seconds quicker than the three cars that ended the race on the podium. He caught the three-car train with two laps to go but could not get past Hamilton the second time, either.

It’s hard to blame Hamilton for not wanting to let Rosberg by and hand him a win. On the other hand, F1 is a team sport and Hamilton deciding that his personal glory is more important than a victory likely won’t go down well at Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart. It’s doubtful that the car manufacturer is spending several hundred million dollars annually on F1 to watch one of its drivers decide that third should be the best it can do on a particular race day.

“Obviously, we need to sit down, discuss and analyze the moment when Lewis was asked to let Nico pass – but, like always, we will do this calmly and work our way through any confusion or misunderstanding,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “There were so many things influencing the decisions we made and we must still determine whether we were right or not. We are not satisfied with third and fourth today.”

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