Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Mercedes was “naive” to think Lewis Hamilton would not try and back team-mate Nico Rosberg into the chasing pack in Abu Dhabi.
With Rosberg holding a 12-point advantage ahead of the final race of the season, Hamilton needed to win at Yas Marina and have Rosberg finish outside of the top three in order to retain his title. Before the race weekend, Horner suggested Hamilton’s best chance was to slow the pace at the front of the field to leave Rosberg vulnerable to Red Bull and Ferrari, and the Briton duly did so on Sunday.
With Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen closing in on the two Mercedes drivers, Hamilton was told to up his pace to protect the victory by his team, but Horner believes it was clear the triple world champion was always going to take such an approach.
“We know that Toto likes to control most things in the paddock, including other teams’ drivers!” Horner said. “You couldn’t expect anything different. They are racing for a world championship. The drivers’ world championship. There are only two guys in it and they are both in the same car.
“Lewis, winning the race was never going to be enough for him. He drove a tactical race and he didn’t do anything dirty, he didn’t do anything against the rules. It would be unfair to criticise Lewis for the way that he drove. It was obvious coming into the weekend that was his only chance of achieving the result that he wanted. It would be unfair to criticise him.”
And asked if he would have let his two drivers race if he was in the same position, Horner said Mercedes should have seen the situation coming and allowed the drivers to race.
“With where they were at, it was just down to those two guys. So it was only ever going to be that kind of battle between the two of them. Congratulations to Nico, he has driven a great season. He is a very worthy world champion, but it was naïve to think that there would be any different approach to this race with what is at stake.”
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