Like any soccer or rugby team, or pretty much any team of any hue competing in any sport anywhere in the world, Formula 1 teams have their fans and supporters. And those supporters are usually split into the individual driver’s camps.
Some are more fanatical in their support than others, and nationalities tend to support their own nationals in competition. None is more fanatical, more vocal and more vociferous than the British fan.
In recent times, the mind-numbingly dreary tones of a “Brummie” accent, as spoken by Nigel Mansell, drove those British fans into something bordering idolatry and hero worship.
A genius in the car, he could do no wrong as far as his fans were concerned and woe betide any team that was perceived by those sons and daughters of England to mistreat him.
That same fanaticism, hero worship, adulation, call it what you will, is now heaped on the shoulders of Mercedes F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and in the same way as Mansell, Hamilton plays it for all it is worth. He is undoubtedly a genius in the car but remains strangely aloof, almost morose, in his attitude when things don’t go right.
He did nothing after the Russian Grand Prix to pour cold water on the assertion by many that the team were favouring Rosberg at the expense of Hamilton when he said he did not understand why the team had changed the personnel on his car.
Hamilton has a way, perhaps more so than any other driver, of polarising people into the love him or hate him camps ... and those who love him seem convinced he is on the wrong end of a Mercedes conspiracy.
Many accuse Mercedes of actively hampering Hamilton by deliberately sabotaging his car. What utter bollocks. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but it makes me angry when people who have no real knowledge of a situation assert that “of course they (Mercedes) need a German World Champion so of course they are sabotaging Hamilton’s car”.
I heard this, or words close to this, spoken by a radio sports commentator.
How a garage full of bright engineers and mechanics are expected to never say a word of any sabotage to any driver, now or in the future, escapes me, not to mention the thousand workers involved in the effort to get the cars on to the track.
If news of sabotage got out it would ruin the Mercedes Formula 1 effort, the reputation of the Mercedes-Benz Company and the championship for Rosberg.
Some years ago most teams had a Number 1 and a Number 2 driver and at times there has been some clear favouritism towards a particular driver ... Mario Andretti over Ronnie Peterson in the Lotus Chapman days and the rumours of Red Bull favouring Sebastian Vettel over Mark Webber.
In the era of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren, with engines supplied by Honda, Prost always claimed the best engines were given to Senna. Honda strongly disputed this.
Much of this was done to ensure the Number 1, who already had the lion’s share of the points, would go on to win the championship, and it was normally done when new performance parts were developed and only one example was available. It was then given to the leading driver.
That situation is different to the Hamilton/Rosberg sabotage and reliability issue. There is no question that the Mercedes team will win yet another Drivers and Constructors World Championship in 2016. They don’t have to favour one over the other.
With the telemetry available today, coming off the cars at the rate of seven or eight gigabytes of compressed data per race, nothing can be hidden in performance terms. If one power unit is less powerful that the other it is obvious to all in the team so that avenue of “sabotage” is not possible. The car parts are manufactured to incredibly small tolerances so in order to “sabotage” that side of things some mechanic would have to fit a broken, damaged or weak part.
No mechanic or engineer would do that, could ever do that, it would be too obvious.
Hamilton has made another proclamation in the form of a vote of confidence in his mechanics.
Although many people think it was a good and reassuring thing to do, I disagree. He should never have to do it and the team should never have to feel they have to defend themselves against all the “Monday morning quarterbacks“ and armchair experts.
The open letter from team boss Toto Wolff to the fans in an attempt to explain the situation was a mistake and sets a bizarre precedent. It was insulting enough to the garage and factory crew to accuse them of skullduggery but those insults are almost compounded by the feeling there should be an “official” reaction .