Formula 1

Mercedes face modern F1 dilemma over Hamilton & Rosberg

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As Formula One enjoys its first major championship battle between team-mates in over two decades, the modern world has given Mercedes a very complex dilemma.

Not since the days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren has there been a single team dominating with two drivers so equally matched throughout one season.

Back then it was all about the Drivers' championship and such was the rivalry between the Brazilian and the Frenchman that the one team in effect became two separate garages and the likelihood of the co-operation going on now between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, almost zero.

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New world

But now, as the sport has become a multi-billion dollar business and the priorities of the team just as big as those of the drivers, the men behind the wheel have had to learn to obey orders from the men on the pit wall and work for the benefit of the team - in some cases - to the detriment of themselves.

This is why we have had the scenario playing out at Mercedes throughout this year. The thought of two drivers going flat-out against each other without any rules from the bosses is unheard of in modern F1, and to add to that, the first priority of Mercedes this year has been to win the Constructors' Championship.

It is this fact that makes the conspiracy makers and their far-fetched theories look so silly, because there is no way a team would deliberately hamper one man's efforts at winning each race because it would not be in the best interest of the team's efforts at winning the Constructors' crown.

The importance of the Constructors' championship

One of the main reasons why the teams championship has become so much more attractive is the benefits teams gain from finishing higher up the standings.

What used to be considered an afterthought behind the Drivers' crown, the amount of extra prize money a team can gain from winning or beating an opponent in the team standings has made it a key source of income during a time when sponsorship is hard to come by.

It is this, and the prospect of being the first team to beat Red Bull in four years, that has made it the number one target for Mercedes and particularly for Commercial Director Toto Wolff.

What Mercedes can gain from being Constructors' champions outweighs what whichever driver, who eventually wins the drivers title, can offer the team in Brackley and company in Stuttgart as a whole.

As a result it is achieving this goal that led to the team order to be given, rightly or wrongly, to Lewis Hamilton in Hungary just over a week ago.

Nico Rosberg was in a stronger position to claim a victory for Mercedes but to optimise that chance the German needed to pass Hamilton. The call was made but Hamilton's decision not to allow his team-mate through likely cost the team a win and allowed nearest rivals Red Bull to close the gap. 

A delicate balancing act

The good news for Mercedes has been that their car has been so dominant this year. Now they are in a position to achieve their primary aim in the next few races, with Singapore looking the most likely should things run smoothly.

After the team order controversy in Budapest perhaps the two biggest figures at Mercedes, Toto Wolff and non-Executive Chairman Niki Lauda, disagreed over whether Lewis Hamilton was right to not comply with the instruction.

The businessman Wolff was critical, while the racer Lauda sided with the Briton saying he was within his rights to keep Rosberg behind him.

At the same time Wolff pointed at the dilemma of which I will now explain, when is the right time to allow the two drivers fully off the leash and fight for the drivers crown?

This remains part of a delicate balancing act because while the team may have a 174-point lead over Red Bull with just eight races to go, if Mercedes start to suffer poorer reliability and even if the drivers should clash on the track, only a few poor races could see that gap back down to where double points in Abu Dhabi give Red Bull some chance of retaining their championship.

Maintaining order

Also on the minds of Mercedes bosses is the fact you have two men eager to fulfil ambitions. Nico Rosberg is looking to become to emulate his father and become champion for the first time, while Lewis Hamilton wants to claim a second title to add to his triumph in 2008.

They say that selfishness is a characteristic of a true champion and at some point the dream of becoming champion will take priority of those of the team and Mercedes would much rather know that both drivers were on the same page than have one potentially 'going rogue'.

The time is right?

In a time when public image is one of the most important attributes to any brand, the decision as to when the battle to become 2014 F1 champion can go 'no holds barred' is key because it has to be in the best interest for the team and also the best for the sport.

Nobody would like to think Mercedes are/ have been interfering with the drivers championship battle, and indeed the on track wheel-to-wheel action between their drivers has made this one of the most open team-mate fights in recent years, but at the same time would the team let an out of control driver pairing risk losing them money and prestige?

However, looking forward to the rest of the season, the time is right for Mercedes to give the fans what they want, an all out war.

In Hamilton and Rosberg they have two drivers who, we would hope, not go as far as to take each other out of a race ala Senna or Michael Schumacher and the work of attaining that first Constructors' title really is done because the W05 remains in a league of its own.

A job well done

For Mercedes, a team who have never had to deal with this situation, the way they have gone about it has been perhaps the best fans could have hoped, we have had great battles, classic moments and they have given the sport a much-needed revitalisation after several years of Red Bull dominance.

The call in Hungary was maybe the first time the inexperience on the pitwall really showed but now the time has come for the bigwigs to step back and let two great racing drivers go at it hammer and tongs because that would make what has a been a brilliant season so far into an absolute classic.

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