When Lewis Hamilton was given the hurry-up by the pit-wall during the first few laps of his second stint on the yellow soft compound tyre, the Brit suggested that the tyre was proving problematic.
Rosberg found himself within the one-second DRS zone, unable to pull a move whilst Hamilton’s lack of pace threatened to put the Mercedes pair into the clutches of the chasing Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel. At that moment in the race, Mercedes 1-2 finish looked to be in jeopardy.
Hamilton mentioned after the race that with such high temperatures on the track, there was no need to build a gap up but he admitted that he’d ‘managed’ the race too much. The sudden fall in pace caused Ricciardo the bite the bait and pit early on lap 35 in an attempt to coax the Mercedes driver’s into a reaction.
With little surprise, the Mercedes drivers found a sudden burst of pace once Ricciardo had committed to his strategy. The key thing to recognize here is that Mercedes’ advantage is such that they can afford to fain a lack of pace and still remain dominant at the front.
Rosberg could have been more aggressive too, and whilst Toto Wolff insists to the outside that the team aren’t implementing any team orders and are “letting them race”, it looked like a serious case of race management. Although it’s obviously legal to manage the race, it ideally shouldn’t be afforded in F1. Fans and audiences turn up to tracks to see the best drivers pushing the quickest cars to the limit.
One of the reasons Rosberg seemed to stay around 2-seconds behind Hamilton was so his tyres didn’t get shredded in the dirty air of the leader. Hopefully, next year’s harder, more durable Pirelli tyres will give us actual racing and fights at the front.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 26, 2016