The fallout from the Mercedes meltdown at Spa has continued all week and culminated in Nico Rosberg apologising via social media for his part in the melee. I await Lewis Hamilton’s apology for his conduct in the interview tat has led it to come to this, although I am very likely to be disappointed.
As the Brackley-based soap opera has played out, I like a small number of people in the F1 community have began wonder how much a certain Ross Brawn, who left Mercedes at the end of last year, would have been able to stop this mess becoming what it is today.
Brawn is a man who is no stranger to dealing with the sharp end of Formula One, having done so at Brawn, Benetton and Ferrari. That career has seen him oversee a staggering eight World Drivers’ Championships and a further eight World Constructors’ Championships. A man qualified to deal with the situations that Mercedes currently find themselves in, even if like the current Mercedes management he and his decisions have come under intense scrutiny in the past.
Take the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. He and Jean Todt instructed Rubens Barrichello to move over and allow Michael Schumacher win the race, something the Brazilian eventually did. Brawn’s expert management ensured that whilst there was still controversy over the team order, neither Barrichello nor Michael Schumacher engaged in any sort of public spat, clash of opinion or any real dissent. Schumacher even showed gratitude, and whilst Rubens was visibly angry he remained in a calm state. It’s the same with team orders at Malaysia last year, when a clearly faster Rosberg obeyed them to stay behind Lewis whilst Sebastian Vettel caused a stir by ignoring them, something that again was badly mismanaged.
Hell, Brawn even managed to Schumacher to co-operate with Eddie Irvine in 1999.
What has unfurled over the past two races has been something of a disaster for Paddy Lowe, Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda, the current top brass at the Silver Arrows. Mercedes, despite being the runaway leaders in both Championships, are now floundering.
Brawn left Mercedes in 2013, only officially retiring from F1 earlier this year. That suggests it wasn’t solely his decision to leave in the first place. If my instincts are correct, then this was extremely foolish.
Under the management of Brawn, Nico Rosberg would not have attempted to pass Lewis in the clumsy manner he did. Lewis would probably have obeyed the team orders at Hungary and he certainly would not have potentially leaked details of team meeting whilst making those absolutely pathetic, attention-seeking comments claiming Rosberg ‘basically admitted to doing it on purpose’.
Wolff has been an excellent link between the media and Mercedes and has in the main managed to halt a lot of driver tension with his down-the-middle answers at media briefings and in interviews. He expertly handled the team orders saga at Hungary when dealing with the media, who made less fuss than I expected. I put that down to Wolff, who did not choose sides.
So I was surprised when he did publicly blame Rosberg. I am aware that Lauda did too, but let’s be honest, Hamilton has been the apple of Lauda’s eye dating back to the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix, when he called the (Correct) decision to impose a time penalty on Hamilton for overtaking after cutting the final chicane ‘The worst in the history of F1’. Wolff, until Spa, had not put a foot wrong when dealing with the media, but his comments about Nico being directly at fault were poorly judged, even if they were correct. It is very difficult to imagine Brawn acting with such recklessness.
It is my belief that Brawn would have been able to put out the pan fire relatively quickly after the race, whereas Wolff, Lauda and to a lesser extent Lowe have allowed the pan fire to engulf the kitchen. Despite Rosberg’s apology and punishment, this fire has began to burn out of control.
Lauda and Wolff have failed to learn from Brawn and they have suffered the consequences. Their mis-management has caused this to explode.
The Fire Brigade are too late to salvage this house.