Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has criticised Nico Rosberg and Mercedes, after the German marque tried to impose team orders on Lewis Hamilton during the latter stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
After starting from pole position on a track renowned for its lack of overtaking, Rosberg entered the race as a clear favourite, especially with team-mate Hamilton being forced to start the race from back in the pit-lane.
However, the unpredictable nature of the race, which began in inclement weather conditions after a heavy rain shower before the start, enabled Hamilton to quickly scythe through the field and catch up to his German team-mate.
After two safety car periods following accidents involving Marcus Ericsson and Sergio Perez, Fernando Alonso found himself leading from Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, with Rosberg in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.
As the various strategies were carried out, Hamilton found himself ahead of Rosberg, albeit with the Championship leader on a differing strategy to his British team-mate.
As the race entered its closing stages, Mercedes instructed Hamilton not to hold up his team-mate, who still needed to top again.
However, due to a visible lack of pace from Rosberg and defiance on the part of Hamilton, the order remained unchanged despite further team orders from the pit wall and a rather frustrated Rosberg asking why he was not being allowed through.
Eventually such a dilemma saw Hamilton finish in a strong third behind race winner Ricciardo and Alonso, with team-mate Rosberg a close fourth after a late surge on a fresh set of tyres.
Although many firmly believe Rosberg would have had the opportunity to fight for victory had Hamilton adhered to team orders, Jacques Villeneuve was of the opinion that the German simply tried to “destroy” his team-mate’s race by expecting him to obey team orders.
With the German’s pace visibly lacking in comparison to Hamilton and most certainly the likes of Ricciardo and Alonso, the former World Champion believes that Rosberg would certainly have held up Hamilton had the Briton adhered to the team orders given.
“There was no reason or sense in the message because it was obvious that to let Nico by [Hamilton] would have lost two seconds in his own race,” Villeneuve told BBC Radio 5 Live. “It wouldn’t have helped Nico win because Nico was already losing his tyres and two laps later Nico was actually slower than Lewis.
“That’s why Nico was complaining and whining because he knew that all he was wanting to do was to destroy Lewis’ race, not to help his own. And it didn’t work out. [Rosberg] knew his tyres were shot. He would have gotten in front of Lewis and then slowed him down and just made Lewis lose a lot of points.”
However, Toto Wolff has confirmed his belief that Nico Rosberg could well have won the Hungarian Grand Prix had Hamilton allowed him through and adhered to the team orders.
“It is a difficult situation now,” Wolff explained to ESPN. “As a team we need to learn from how the season pans out now because if Lewis had let Nico go, Nico could have won the race. We needed to split the strategies because it was not clear what was going to happen.”
With only 11 points separating Rosberg and Hamilton as the Formula One circus heads into the traditional summer break prior to the Belgian Grand Prix, there is no denying that the controversial use of team orders at Budapest will almost certainly add further spice to what is already a fierce battle for supremacy at the top.
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