Mercedes F1 executive director Toto Wolff says it was the fear that Ferrari could steal victory in Abu Dhabi that caused his team to intervene with team orders – and that he's conflicted over Lewis Hamilton ignoring them.
Hamilton’s race engineer and technical chief Paddy Lowe both radioed Hamilton in the race, instructing him to raise his pace – but Hamilton defied this by attempting to back up teammate Nico Rosberg in an attempt to claim the world title for himself.
“I was in a bit of a schizophrenic situation,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “There’s the control freak, team leader, that has a rulebook and everyone has to obey it – and that’s how we got to where we are.
“Then there’s the racer in me and I was questioning what I would have done. [Hamilton] had two situations – one, disappear into the distance and show he’s the best racing driver and it could have been his season. Or he could back [Nico] up, and that’s what he decided to do. I’m a little bit in two minds.
“This is what I mean as a racing driver. It would have come to my mind [to back him up] and it came to others’ mind. Christian [Horner, Red Bull boss] had the same idea before the weekend, he followed Christian’s instruction so maybe he wants to drive for him! You see, I’m going from one side to the other side [in my mind].
“Nico kept it very cool under pressure, maybe he would have launched an overtake also, another game. I know it’s difficult to have a solution for every single issue.”
When asked why Mercedes felt compelled to interfere with Hamilton’s tactics, Wolff replied: “We could let them off the leash completely and have less rules, but the consequence would be we would win less races and we would be losing championships, because there are some other clever blokes on the pitwall.
“And there’s one philosophy we’ve followed all through the years, which is: we will not interfere, as long as we can guarantee the race win. And there was a situation here where we calculated we would lose the race, because [Lewis] was getting slower and slower.
“This was where we decided to intervene, he decided to ignore it. There’s just one thing: does this set a precedent for the future?
“This is what we have to assess, but fundamentally we have to cheer up. Nineteen wins and a new world champion, great spirit within the team.”