How many drivers are taking sides in the title fight between Hamilton and Verstappen? Racing fans

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Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and their teams are leaving no opportunity to score untapped in their fight for the championship.

Mercedes and Red Bull have already made tactical use of the title contenders’ teammates at certain points in the season. When asked, Sergio Perez was quick to leave Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas did the same for Hamilton. They even delayed their rivals’ pilots when needed, while staying within what is considered acceptable.

But while the involvement of the title contenders’ teammates is to be expected, drivers from other teams playing similar roles are potentially more controversial.

In theory, each driver is there to put the interests of their team and themselves first. In practice, the relationships between the teams blur the boundaries of these interests. And the nature of modern Formula 1 racing means that drivers can have a significant effect on the races of their rivals through subtle actions that don’t need to be as obvious as stepping off the line to defend their position.

The Russian Grand Prix provided an example. At the start of the race, Bottas, who started 16th, caught up with Pierre Gasly, whose AlphaTauri team belongs to Red Bull. Verstappen soon appeared behind them.

Bottas stayed behind Gasly for a long time

Shortly after, Verstappen passed Bottas and, two laps later, also Gasly. But Bottas never managed to get around the AlphaTauri before making his first pit stop on lap 28. Did Gasly fight more against the Mercedes than against his sister team’s car?

Messages between Gasly and race engineer Pierre Hamelin indicate that his priorities involved more than his own progress. As he accelerated out of turn 12 on lap eight, Gasly was told “Max is not our race”; the Red Bull driver passed him on the next turn.

While Gasly was told not to run Verstappen and instead try to follow Red Bull past the cars in front of him, he did not receive a similar message regarding Bottas. This was despite the Mercedes being at least as fast as the Red Bull (indeed, over the weekend Red Bull said Mercedes was faster):

Knees Voice A message
4 Hamelin You have Bottas behind you now, Bottas behind. Leclerc [unclear] six.
4 Hamelin We are doing fine at the moment. Okay for now.
5 Hamelin Okay, Bottas has the DRS behind.
5 Hamelin And you can consider a bit of takeoff at turn 10 as well.
5 Hamelin There is a very tight peloton ahead of you. They are all behind Raikkonen.
5 Hamelin Always very close behind.
6 Hamelin The only place where Leclerc is faster is turn 10.
6 Hamelin Verstappen overtakes Bottas
So now we have Max behind and Bottas behind him. Direct behind is Max.
7 Hamelin Obviously, Bottas is still very close behind Max.
8 gaseous What is the distance between Bottas and Max?
8 Hamelin Very, very close. A few tenths.
8 Hamelin Bottas is now five tenths behind Max. And Max is not our race.
9 Hamelin Verstappen overtakes Gasly
Good Peter, let’s try to follow him now.
9 Hamelin And Max is 1.1 now.
ten Hamelin Bottas has the DRS. And there is a big fight in front between Max, Vettel and Leclerc.

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Asked by RaceFans if he had tried to help Verstappen, Gasly replied: “It was not our race. There was more to us in overtaking the cars in front of us than in trying to fight him. It might be, but it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t the same for Bottas.

George Russell, Williams, Autodromo do Algarve, 2021
Report: “Lewis and Valtteri are teammates to me as is Nicholas,” Russell says after “private” talks with Wolff

Gasly put little effort into keeping Bottas behind. Overtaking is often so difficult in Formula 1 that a top driver doesn’t necessarily have to work hard to defend against a faster rival. Passing a car can therefore give a significant advantage: Verstappen was 12 seconds ahead of Bottas when he refueled.

While pilots helping their teammates in this manner is a typical sight, it is less common to see it between pilots of different teams. It does happen, however, and not just with Red Bull: At the Monaco Grand Prix in 2018, junior Mercedes driver Esteban Ocon let Lewis Hamilton pass him when he came out of the pits.

Ocon’s explanation was much the same as Gasly’s three years later. “It was no use for us to waste time against him,” he said. But Ocon was unlikely to waste any time keeping his rival behind on a track as narrow as Monaco. Indeed, letting Hamilton pass cost him more than a second.

Formula 1 is theoretically contested by 10 rival teams, but examples like these show that the distinction between the competitors is not always clear. There are lines of influence between teams that are not necessarily as clear as two outfits sharing the same owner.

Mercedes has a junior driver, George Russell, who earlier this season described Hamilton and Bottas as teammates just like fellow Williams driver Nicholas Latifi. How will he react if Verstappen and Hamilton (who we now know will be his true teammate next year) appear in his mirrors? Likewise, Ocon, who drives for Alpine powered Renault, remains under contract with Mercedes.

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Next year, a quarter of the estate will have ties to Red Bull in one form or another. In addition to his two drivers and the AlphaTauri duo, Alexander Albon will be back at Williams. Although his Red Bull contract is suspended for this season, he will remain under a long-term contract with the team and should continue to wear the Red Bull colors.

This isn’t just a problem for the title contenders either. Ferrari has junior drivers at Alfa Romeo (Antonio Giovinazzi) and Haas (Mick Schumacher). Between them, Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari may only represent six of the 20 drivers, but their influence will cover the majority of the grid next year.

If each of these three teams has a contender in the title fight next year, F1 could look like the last few seasons of the DTM, with each top driver relying on several others lined up on the same manufacturer to get some success. aid. The ‘push it out’ controversy at the Red Bull Ring a few years ago showed just how ready a team in this series is to go in their quest for the championship.

How far are pilots allowed to help rivals from different teams? This is a delicate area for the police. The International Sporting Code prohibits “manipulation of competitions” which is defined as “an intentional assembly, act or omission aimed at unduly altering the result or the course of a competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictability of said competition. , aimed at obtaining an unfair advantage for oneself or for others.

While the FIA ​​saw no problem with the actions of Ocon in Monaco or Gasly in Sochi, how far could they push the rules while staying on the right side of the law?

“I should look at it on a case-by-case basis as it arises,” Formula 1 race director Michael Masi told RaceFans question. “I wouldn’t want to anticipate different things about what may or may not happen on the pitch.”

Flashback: 1997 European Grand Prix – Villeneuve wins title as Schumacher attack gets him expelled

After the 1997 European Grand Prix, Williams and McLaren were the subject of an FIA investigation into allegations that they had colluded to decide the outcome of the race. Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve, carrying a damaged car to the checkered flag en route to the world championship, allowed the two McLaren drivers to overtake him.

The World Motorsport Council ruled that “West McLaren Mercedes and Williams Grand Prix Engineering have been able to show that there is no arrangement to fix the results of the 1997 European Grand Prix.

“For the future, in order to avoid possible misunderstandings and ambiguities, the World Motor Sport Council has recommended that all radio transmissions between drivers and their pits be freely accessible by journalists and the public.”

However, Masi said the 24-year-old case would not necessarily set a precedent for how a similar scenario would be handled today. “We are talking about 97, a very long time ago,” he said. “So I think you should look at everything on the merits of what’s out there, what’s going on, and investigate if necessary, based on what may or may not have happened.”

With seven races to go, only two points remain between Hamilton and Verstappen at the top of the standings. The winner can be decided not only by who is the fastest driver and which team built the best car, but also by who has the most influence on the grid.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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