PLAYING NICELY, GUYS: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg (left) and Lewis Hamilton raced to first and second (Rosberg won) in the June 2014 Austrian F1 GP at Spielberg. Things weren't so happy in Budapest. Image: AP / Darko Bandic
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Mercedes panicked in asking Lewis Hamilton to move over for Nico Rosberg in Sunday's Hungarian Formula 1 GP and the Briton was right to ignore the request.
Not Reuter's words, but those of his team's non-executive chairman, one-time race ace and three-times F1 champion Niki Lauda.
He refused to blame Hamilton and told reporters he would have done exactly the same.
"The team was under enormous stress," Lauda said of the incident that has become a major talking point since Hamilton raced from the pits lane to third at the end while Rosberg started on pole but finished fourth.
"Mercedes was used to being in the lead and racing against each other. This race, with the safety car at the beginning and wet conditions, was a completely different race so every minute you had to decide something different.
"The call came out of panic and we have to make up for what we are losing."
Mercedes had won nine of 10 races until Sunday when Australian Daniel Ricciardo took his second victory of the year for 2013 champion team Red Bull but here's how the Nico/Lewis thing went down...
Hamilton was told over the team radio, after his second and final stop with a third of the race to go, not to hold up Rosberg behind him because the German needed to get past to make his three-stop strategy work.
Hamilton made clear Rosberg needed to be a lot closer to overtake and would not slow down or move aside (at that point). Rosberg could not get close to Hamilton and, after eight more laps, pitted and then had to fight back in a thrilling chase to the finish between the top four.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso finished second.
The result allowed Hamilton, who had suffered an engine fire in qualifying but been fastest in all three practice sessions, to cut Rosberg's overall lead to 11 points with eight races to go.
BATTLE 'IN A NEW PHASE'
Had he let Rosberg pass (and had to slow down to do so) the German might have won for Mercedes and extended his lead but Lauda said Hamilton had to look out for his own interests rather than those of the team'.
Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff recognised after the race that the title battle had entered a new phase. "We cannot really ask either driver to give up its position or jeopardise its own championship chances for the benefit of the team."
Lauda said it was "completely normal between drivers that they want to be in front of the other. So the reaction of the drivers for me is completely normal". "I think when everything calms down, there is nothing wrong. It was good racing, this is for me the most important, between the Mercedes guys and the rest."
Lauda said Hamilton's race, with a new chassis and engine and starting behind Kevin Magnussen's McLaren in the pits lane, had in any case been the drive of the day.
"This was for me the outstanding drive. Not only (starting) from the pits but in a brand new car which had to be put together (overnight). He never drove this car, which is a handicap, and then he had to start in the wet. What Lewis did with this unknown car, not absolutely balanced, to go all the way through and finish third was incredible.
"Lewis did an outstanding job."
DRIVERS IN DUEL OF THEIR OWN
Hamilton and Rosberg, son of 1982 champion Keke, are in a duel of their own for the title and the season so far has seen friction between themo rise and fall with every race.
• In Monaco they were were barely speaking after Rosberg made an error late in qualifying that secured him pole and brought out warning flags that prevented Hamilton beating his time.
• In Bahrain they raced wheel-to-wheel with heated discussions afterwards about some of the defensive moves.
Lauda felt the August break between Hungary and Belgium would restore some calm. "I've been very happy. Nobody had any problems," he said of managing relations between the drivers. "Now I have to see if there are some but I doubt it because everybody goes on holiday anyway and drivers forget quickly.
"After the holidays they start completely normal again."