Should Mercedes have been penalised at the British Grand Prix?
The team faked a pit stop to force an error from Williams, although their attempt was unsuccessful.
The team continue to dominate the 2015 racing season, notching up yet another Mercedes 1-2. Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand prix, with teammate Nico Rosberg finishing in second in what proved to be a tumultuous, dramatic race.
Williams-Martini took the early lead from the Silver Arrows, with Massa leading the pack up until nearly the halfway mark, closely followed by teammate Bottas. Early on in the race – at lap 14 – when the Oxfordshire-based team still held the lead over Mercedes, team boss Toto Wolff instructed mechanics to gather in the pit lane to con Williams into believing they were to pit.
The tactic was a blatant attempt to befuddle the Williams team, which later also suffered various other strategic issues that would lead to their downfall at the race. Luckily, however, the team did not take the bait, ignoring the move entirely. According to the BBC, Williams development driver Susie Wolff fired off a missive to her husband Toto, Mercedes team principal, saying the team had seen through their feint.
An unfazed team continued to hold their lead until Hamilton undercut Massa a little under halfway through the race, taking and holding on to the lead from then on. Teammate Rosberg went on to overtake a now third-place Valtteri Bottas from his fourth position spot, catching Massa up soon after.
Mercedes used the fake pit stop as a tactic to get Williams to call in their own drivers earlier than necessary or planned in reaction, so their own drivers could make up a lead. The tactic in itself showed that Mercedes were genuinely concerned about Williams’ early progress. Toto Wolff admitted in an official press conference following the race that “it was a bit of a game that didn’t work.”
He conceded it had been a deliberate move to entrap them to pit early, as Mercedes were aware of the fact that their rivals were prone to tyre issues and “making them last”, and they wanted to bait them into having these issues.
There is no strict regulation that specifically mentions dummy pit-stops and baiting in Formula 1, although Rule 23.11 of the FIA regulations states explicitly:
” Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete.
Considering this and the fact that Wolff has all but admitted to attempting to lure Williams into the pits, should Mercedes be fined or penalised for unsportsmanly behaviour? These could potentially come in the form of monetary fines, grid penalties for the drivers next race, or a docking of points from the team, although the latter may not significantly affect the Silver Arrows, who have a 160 point lead over their nearest rivals, Ferrari.
Reactions to the move were largely critical of Mercedes. Official reaction is