Will 'Doing The Right Thing' Cost Lewis Hamilton The F1 Championship?
By Tom Hasker, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
How many of us have been in this situation?
A mate helps you out, by lending you £10, a pen or their car and you 'promise to pay them back', but one thing leads to another and you never quite get around to repaying that first act of trust and kindness?
At the 2017 Grand Prix of Hungary, Lewis Hamilton was faster than his team mate Valtteri Bottas who was in 3rd place behind the two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Mr Vettel's lead Ferrari had a steering issue and Lewis Hamilton thought that with a clear run at the famous red cars, he may stand a chance of winning the race and even being able to 'tow' his team mate into the fight as well. The scene was set for a deal!
Having suffered a few radio issues, communication from the pit garage to Lewis Hamilton's car was awkward, leaving little time to arrange tactics. In the last laps of the race, it was agreed that Mr Hamilton would pass Valtteri Bottas (himself 3rd in the title fight only 23 points from the lead) and would take the charge to the Ferraris.
The deal was that if Lewis Hamilton didn't overtake Mr Raikkonen, then he would give back 3rd place to Valtteri Bottas. A sporting gesture that is not often seen, especially in a sport where 'team orders' have been a controversial issue in the past.
Would Lewis Hamilton stand by his promise? Was the question everyone had in mind in the closing laps as it became obvious the prancing horses of Ferrari still had the legs on the Mercedes...
True to his word, Lewis Hamilton (now 7 seconds ahead of his team-mate - a lifetime in F1 terms) let the man from Finland past and reclaim his 3rd position. This has cost Lewis Hamilton 3 points in total to his title rival Sebastian Vettel who won the race but in his own words Mr Hamilton said;
"I don't know whether it will come back to bite me in the backside, [but] I said at the beginning of the year I want to win it the right way and it was the right way to do things.
"If he let me by and I pulled him along and we were two seconds apart it is a much easier thing to let him back. But I was seven seconds up ahead and with the Ferraris and the team were in a difficult position.
"But it showed I am a man of my word and also that I am a team player. I am just as much a part of the team as anyone in it. It shows unity.
"In life, if you do good things, good things come back to you."
This shows true integrity to the promise Mr Hamilton made on the track in the heat of racing. Can't we all point to a time in our lives when we forgot the promises we made when we needed help? Here we have an example at the highest levels of sport, of someone living their values and making certain that they do the right thing.
His team boss Toto Wolff commented;
"These values made us win six championships and will make us win more championships in the years to come. It cost us three points and it could potentially cost the championship and we are perfectly conscious about that.
"Nevertheless it is how the drivers and team operate. We stick to what we say and if the consequences are as much as losing the championship, we will take it.
"But long term we will win much more races and championships with that approach than doing it the other way around. [It was] a tough call to make, a very difficult one, believe me probably the most difficult call we had to make in the last five years.
"I am not in a happy place at the moment but if you are not fast enough at least you are sportsmanlike."
It can be tough to do the right thing as Mr Wolff explains, because championships have been decided by a single point in the past and winning is what everyone (the team, fans, sponsors, investors) is there for, but how you win, in a sporting and respectful way is as just as if not more important as what you win.
Mr Wolff is also pointing to the foundation for the whole Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and the investment they are making now, in their long-term success. The actions of Mr Hamilton mean they have taken a hit in this race, that may also cost them the championship, but long-term success depends on establishing and developing a set of principle-based values that everyone believes in and you can rely on. In this race, we saw a team truly show what it's made of!
Here's a little clip of Lewis Hamilton letting his teammate past on the final lap:
For more on this story check out the BBC Sport F1 page here and for more on how Lewis Hamilton keeps his cool, check this Legends Report.