SUZUKA, Japan — Lewis Hamilton says he is surprised that Ferrari hasn’t opted to enforce team orders in 2018 given the team’s history of giving preferential treatment to one of its drivers.
Team orders was a hot topic of conversation in the Suzuka paddock on Thursday following Mercedes’ controversial call to switch its drivers around during last weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. Valtteri Bottas, who started from pole position in Sochi, was effectively leading the race from Hamilton after the front-runners all made their one and only pit stop. However, when Sebastian Vettel began to close in on Hamilton for second place, the Silver Arrows radioed in and made the call, one that has split many in Formula One.
It meant Hamilton was able to take a comfortable win and extend his championship lead over Vettel to a season-high 50 points with just five races remaining.
“We used team orders in that one race; we worked as a team in others,” Hamilton said ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. “There have been times where, for example, Valtteri has not been in the top five and there’s been a Ferrari, me and a Ferrari, and the Ferraris work together. They stop one car to try and push me into a stop.
“So they have worked as a team in certain parts of the year, but at crucial points, like in Monza, they haven’t. Is that a surprise? Yeah, because they have done that in the past, and why they would change that? It’s not my problem.”
It was a sensitive topic for Hamilton, who admitted he hasn’t stopped thinking about Bottas and what took place in Russia.
“Since the moment it happened and until today, it’s been something I’ve thought about,” Hamilton said on Thursday in Japan. “I don’t think you get your mind around it, [but] you just have to accept it and move forwards.
“I am definitely split just like 50 percent of the people. On one side, I feel one way about it, and on the other side I feel another way about it. I was at the factory on Monday, and I am sure 50 percent of the guys at the factory have the same vibe, but generally the support was quite amazing.
“Collectively as a team, we’ve stayed quite united through the whole experience. We all did a toast to Valtteri at the factory the other day, 900 people or whatever it is where standing there. It was pretty awesome.”
Hamilton was also asked if team orders should be banned in Formula One.
“I am split. This is the most unusual sport in that sense that you have two championships,” Hamilton said. “So unlike people watching football or any other sport, where everyone works towards that one goal, there’s two goals here.
“You’re conflicted in trying to achieve those two goals because there’s only one driver that can win, yet there’s two drivers and you have a team championship that you want to win. It’s a difficult dynamic because the team works together to win the championship, but then they also want to win the drivers’ championship, but only one of you can win, so they’re conflicted as they don’t want to favour either driver.
“I remember watching it years ago with Michael [Schumacher] and Rubens [Barrichello], naturally you felt bad for Rubens because he did such a great job and he deserved the win, but on the other side, as a racer, I know what it is to be working for the championship, so they worked as a team to get the result for Michael.”