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THE STEERING COLUMN: A Team Sport

THE STEERING COLUMN: A Team Sport

In hindsight, the question couldn't have been more appropriate for how our weekend turned out. But the audience just didn't know it at the time.

Lewis walked the tightrope of Thursday's media commitments

Early this week, the team decided that Lewis would take a gearbox penalty in Austria. Inspection had revealed damage to the unit that made it an unacceptable risk to run it again on a race weekend.

Weighing the impact of the five-place grid penalty against a potential loss of crucial championship points, the decision was ultimately an easy one - no matter how disappointing it is to take any kind of penalty.

So we went into the weekend with the knowledge that we would be on the back foot in qualifying and determined to make sure it had the smallest possible impact on the race weekend.

Lewis walked the tightrope of Thursday's media commitments, negotiating the smouldering aftermath of the events in Baku, while the team followed our usual practice of waiting for the official FIA announcement before giving our rivals any information that could be of strategic advantage to them.

The paddock has been debating the rights and wrongs of drivers suffering grid penalties

In parallel, the paddock has been debating the rights and wrongs of drivers suffering grid penalties for what are, rightly or wrongly, considered to be "team" failures - perhaps ignoring the subtlety that the driver is always part of the team, not separate from it. But the debate is a valid one, kicked off by Mark Webber speaking in his broadcast role.

On one hand, there is undoubted merit in evaluating whether Constructors' points could be deducted for technical failures rather than penalising the drivers. For many fans, whose favourite driver may be affected by a penalty, it would feel fairer - and that's the view of many media, too.

But Lewis provided a nuanced perspective of how this situation looks from the cockpit and within a team:

"I understand Mark's point (...) But I imagine it's difficult to really implement that. You're a team. If a driver makes a mistake, the team loses points and if it's a team, collective mistake when something or when reliability hits, it hits you all together."

Food for thought, perhaps, as we head into Saturday night...

Whether we like them or not, the penalties are part of the game for now. Nobody goes out trying to incur them - but they do happen from time to time as we chase the performance that will give us a decisive advantage. We never set out for things to go wrong but, when you push to the limit, weaknesses are exposed. And they must be corrected with rigour and without blame, to keep moving forward.

As Lewis so rightly said, it's a team game. And that same team is working flat out to devise the best possible strategy for tomorrow afternoon.

Food for thought, perhaps, as we head into Saturday night... and ready ourselves for the challenges of tomorrow's Grand Prix.

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