This season will go down as one of the most heated battles of the sport history, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg fighting for the Championship title, points apart. However, the Belgium Grand Prix saw the two of them collide, ending Hamilton’s race. Confrontation isn’t new to the sport and I want to look confrontations in the sport and what it means for the team when a confrontation goes sour.
In 1988, Ayrton Senna was given a seat alongside Alain Prost at McLaren, the number one driver on the track. It was known that Senna was hungry for the success Prost had and was prepared to do anything to get it, one of the many things that made Senna a legend in the sport. Straightaway, with both drivers hungry, both ignored team orders given and caused preventable collisions. Ayrton agreed to not get in the way at the first corner at the 1988 San Marino Grand Prix, but went against the orders after the crash of Gerhard Berger caused a restart. The two collided various amounts of times in the same car and out, the most famous one being at the 1989 Suzuka, which resulted in Senna being disqualified, receiving a fine and being suspended after allocations of the FIA President favouring the Frenchman and Prost won the championship. Returning to Formula 1 after this, he went on to win the 1990 World Championship. But Prost and Senna had a friendship that withstood this rivalry and when Ayrton Senna died, Prost was one of the people to carry his coffin, so the spite was only ever on track, the respect they shared for each other was incredible.
In Formula 1, there isn’t only the Driver’s Championship at stake, it’s the Constructors as well. So the team’s goal for the season is not only to support each driver, but get each driver scoring points and bringing the cars home in one piece. So when team orders are given, they are meant to be followed, but Sebastian Vettel decided to ignore them for the benefit of his chance at the World Championship. Mark Webber was faster than Vettel and his team orders said to let him through, however he ignored them and got the higher of the points. From this race, Red Bull had a serious confrontation within the garage which was badly dealt with by team principle, Christian Horner as he was left stuttering and speechless after the confrontation, having Vettel be rude to his team was yet another issue that came up in many interviews, to which he changed the subject, avoiding all blame to be placed upon his number 1 driver. However Perez and Button touched the same race and was dealt with correctly, which makes you wonder if confrontations are better or worse than what they appear, friction was killed before it had started. During the Italian Grand Prix,, Hamilton disobeyed team orders too, but Mercedes claimed it was only a suggestion, which made me question the mixed messages the teams are giving their drivers. So is all this confrontation the teams fault? I believe all teams could deal with this problem better, having meetings and consequences for their actions on the circuit and off, but Mercedes are taking it too far when they are threatening their drivers with a new team line up if they don’t get their act together. The sanction but upon Rosberg (whatever it may be) for the crash in Belgium was a good way to deal the collision repeating itself, but then saying to the press that driver line-ups will be changed? A step too radical, Mercedes.
I also have to consider that the press in Formula 1 plays a big part in how we, the fans, receive the confrontation on and off the circuit. An interview with Hamilton on his friendship with Rosberg, he responded ‘We’re not friends,’ even after the two have been friends since they were 14 years old, which shows that teams need to discuss how to deal with the press, not letting emotions run into the press answers. However, as a tactic for the popularity of the sport, it works so well. After the Hunt/Lauda confrontation, spectators have only grown, the sport is wanted in many places across the world. I find Hamilton’s tactics with the press to be one of the worst things about him, getting over emotional and childish with the way he is treating defeat, whereas Rosberg is good with answering questions, as honestly as he can without causing offensive or adding fuel to the fire (pun intended), yet since Belgium, Nico has been greeted with boos on the podium. To me, this is digusting as each driver on the podium, usually, deserves to be on that podium and its a sign of disrespect. But it highlights what happens when a confrontation hits fans, they will respond in just. As a business, confrontation is not good, with fines being dished out for team collisions, points lost and dealing with a split garage, but as a sport, this kind of heat for the season could not be better.