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THE STEERING COLUMN: A Tale of Two Philosophies

THE STEERING COLUMN: A Tale of Two Philosophies

There's just something about Hungary that never quite runs smoothly. Whether it be the inbound flight diverted to Bratislava because of bad weather, followed by a Wednesday evening taxi race to Budapest. Or a Grand Prix that reminded us sportsmanship is no trite cliché - it's a matter of tough choices, and sacrifices, that have to be made with responsibility and accountability. It's never just a question of doing the easy thing.

Sunday afternoon crystallised clearer than ever that Mercedes and Ferrari have two different philosophies of how to win World Championships. For Ferrari, it's all about backing their lead man towards the drivers' title; at Mercedes, our ethos states that: "Best Team wins. Best driver wins. In that order." That brings with it equality of opportunity for our drivers which, we believe, best serves our team when it comes to winning multiple titles.

One approach is not morally superior to the other and both can win you World Championships. They are a question of mindset, approach and values. Decisions to be made in the quiet days of winter, before championship pressures intervene; and then held to when the pressure cranks up - but not dogmatically. Rather, with the open-mindedness to adapt to changing circumstances.

There's no point beating around the bush: there were many reasons for Lewis to remain in P3 yesterday afternoon. It made no difference to the team result - we scored 27 points either way in the Constructors' Championship. It would have brought him three more points in the quest for the drivers' title. And there was a considerable measure of risk involved, owing to the looming presence of Verstappen in Valtteri's mirrors, no doubt hungry for the chance to leave us with egg on our face after nerfing his team-mate out of the race on lap one.

And yet, to look only at the final decision point is to distort the philosophy that led to those circumstances. Valtteri had qualified ahead on Saturday and raced ahead into the first corner. He maintained position around the pit stops and held a strong P3 when the call came. And, just like in Bahrain earlier this year, he uncomplainingly moved aside to give his team-mate the chance to attack - on the basis that, if he couldn't pass, the positions would be inverted once again.

Within the team, we spend many hours talking about empowerment - giving people the privilege of independence but coupled with accountability for their results. It's always a two-way thing: with privilege comes accountability, entitlement carries with it responsibility.

And when there is no clear right answer to a challenging situation, it is our values that guide us and provide the template for the decisions we make - the professional values that sit at the heart of our team and the personal values that make us the people we are. And those decisions are made without any guarantees that the outcome will prove to be right, when 20/20 hindsight is applied after the points are finally counted.

So it was yesterday afternoon. When it came to the crunch, Lewis, Valtteri and the team found reference points in their values. "The head is more cut-throat," admitted Lewis. "I think it was a decision made with the heart. When you do good things, then good things come back to you." It was the act of a sportsman for whom it matters not just what you win but also how.

Perhaps that sounds trite. Maybe history will judge us to have been naïve in the summer heat of Budapest. But we believe stronger than ever that the ethos with which we go racing - from the factory floor to the podium steps - is the key to our success. Get that right, and the rest will follow.

We got beaten at the Hungaroring - we haven't lost sight of the fact. Most of your life in Formula One is about avoiding the searing pain of defeat and that one hurt bad. But having taken that blow, we stood tall in Budapest yesterday afternoon. Our values are lived throughout our team, beginning with our two drivers, and that is a fact from which we will draw even greater motivation as we prepare to attack the second half of 2017.

This is shaping up into a remarkable season of Formula One that will be talked about for many years to come. It is a great privilege to be part of it. Make no mistake, we intend to win it. And we will win it our way.

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