Lewis Hamilton paid tribute on Monday to the respect and team-work that enabled Mercedes to secure him victory in an unexpected one-two for the Silver Arrows in the Russian Grand Prix.
In stark contrast to the radio feuds, claims of a broken drivers’ agreement and reliability problems that undid rivals Ferrari’s bid for a fourth consecutive victory in Sunday’s race, the champions rediscovered their unity and sense of purpose to take full advantage.
Referring to his relationship with team-mate Valtteri Bottas, the defending five-time champion said: “We work together so it’s all about respect, having respect and, I think that respect has been there since day one.
“We talk about scenarios very openly. Valtteri has always been respectful in those scenarios and I think it’s vital that we are both acting accordingly, which we do, I think.”
Hamilton was responding to reporters’ questions after Sunday’s race at the Sochi Autodrom where a radio feud, over a perceived broken agreement, between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel upset their bid for a victory to end Mercedes six-year dominance of the Russian race.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, who managed a strained relationship between Hamilton and his former team-mate Nico Rosberg, the 2016, champion, said he understood and sympathised with the position of Ferrari counterpart Mattia Binotto.
“It shows a few things, I think,” he said. “It is very difficult to manage drivers that have the aspiration to win the race and we have had that in the past –- and we still have it.
“That’s why we still have to discuss all the scenarios and be aware of how the driver functions and respect it.”
Wolff added that he did not believe Ferrari’s self-inflicted problems with their drivers had contributed to Hamilton seizing his first win in four races since the European summer break.
“No, I don’t think that won us the race,” he said. “I think it’s a side-story ... But, in the end, it was something that needed to be covered from the management side.”
Bottas agreed with Hamilton, confirming that their relationship was respectful and professional despite the Briton sometimes gaining favour in tight racing situations.
He pointed out, however, that Mercedes’ one-two triumph owed most to the timing of a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) deployment when Vettel’s car had an engine failure.
“I think the team did all the right things -– starting on mediums to go long in the first stint -– but Ferrari had a strong car and were very quick so we were hoping for a VSC or Safety Car to come –- and when it did, it was like a miracle.”
Wolff conceded that ‘with my half-empty glass’ Ferrari were quicker in qualifying and in the race, but added: “The result shows you should never give up even if you are not the quickest.”