Paddy Lowe says he wasn’t worried about allowing Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to race each other in Bahrain as he was confident they would be responsible.
Lowe came on the radio during the safety car period and told both men that the priority was to bring the cars home – but that was not a coded message to hold station, as they subsequently proved.
“To be honest I didn’t get overly stressed about it,” said Lowe. “Because I know they’re great professionals, they’re experienced drivers, they know what it takes. I gave them a little bit of a reminder during the safety car, just remember it’s all about bringing the car home. But that didn’t mean don’t race, it just meant there’s a line not to cross, which is where you endanger the car. They did a perfect job with that.”
Lowe agreed that Mercedes had a duty to allow the drivers to race, and put on a show.
“I would say, yes. Imagine if we had imposed team orders from lap two or something. What a terrible thing that would be for F1, and the philosophy of Mercedes in motor sport. It’s something we owe to ourselves and owe to the sport, and owe to the drivers. They’re great drivers. They’re professionals, and you want to give them the opportunity to race, which is what they do.
“Theoretically there may come a point in the season where one driver is clearly not in contention for the championship, and the other one is. That situation is normally so evident that the other driver volunteers to assist the cause.”
The drivers ran different strategies in the race, with Rosberg taking on the medium tyre in the middle stint to give him better pace on the soft at the end, when Lewis was on the medium.
“We split the strategy in order to give a chance for an overtake on Lewis. That strategy was quite evenly matched relative to the option option prime. Then of course with the safety car that created a situation where two cars which ordinarily would have had a gap suddenly close up, with the car behind on the option. In terms of entertainment, you couldn’t have set it up better.
“The difference in the tyres appeared lower than we predicted and we’d seen in the practice sessions it was somewhere between three to five tenths, as it turned out. Nevertheless Lewis did a great job to keep Nico behind with that delta.”