After an absorbing German Grand Prix, our F1 editors Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders join regular columnists Maurice Hamilton and Kate Walker to discuss the major talking points as we pass the half-way point of the 2018 F1 season.
Were the team orders used by Mercedes and Ferrari during the German Grand Prix justified?
MH: Having criticised Red Bull for not intervening in the late stages of the Baku GP, I have to say Mercedes called it right. Hamilton and Bottas had a pretty intense battle and it's understandable that Mercedes would want to ensure this unexpected one-two at home - particularly given the track/tyre conditions. For Ferrari it was an obvious call rather than 'team orders'; Vettel had the quicker car at that moment. They should have called it sooner.
NS: Justified? Sure. Desirable? No. But F1 is a team sport and you don't get any points just for putting on a good show. Mercedes had everything to lose and nothing to gain from letting its drivers race on in the closing stages. As for Ferrari, theirs was a case of letting the guy on the quicker strategy (Sebastian Vettel) through -- the guy at that moment was leading the championship, no less -- which makes it or more baffling it took them so long to implement the call in the first place.
LE: Team orders are legal, therefore both Mercedes and Ferrari were well within their rights to tell their drivers to hold or exchange position. Both orders made sense from a team perspective given the scenarios unfolding on track and in the championship, but it's the reluctance of senior team members to admit there is a hierarchy between their drivers that makes the radio calls so hard to stomach.
KW: I don't like team orders in any circumstances, although I do sympathise with the teams' desire to use them. I want to see drivers racing wheel to wheel irrespective of whether or not they share the same livery, but I'm not paying for all of the replacement carbon fibre and nor am I responsible for apologising to all of the people behind the scenes who make the cars possible. As a race fan, down with team orders. As a pragmatist, they're something we have to accept.
Do you agree with Lewis Hamilton that the victory was the "greatest drive" of his career?
MH: One of the most emotional, certainly. I don't know what was going on in his head all weekend, but there was a great outpouring of relief, happiness, satisfaction - call it what you will. He also rated Monaco 2016 (despite the Red Bull cock-up), Japan 2007, GB 2008 - and others. He most certainly knows the answer to this question, so who's to argue?
NS: I'm going to go against the grain here and say no. He was up to fifth by lap 13 -- highlighting the huge gulf in class between the top three teams and the rest, ruining the aura of the classic fightback-through-the-field. His main rival crashed out of the lead, his teammate's hopes of winning were ruined by a lengthy pit-stop, Ferrari messed up its strategy and Hamilton was clearly lucky to have left with the win after his pit-lane infraction (a moment which also gained him a race-winning advantage at a crucial moment of the race, by the way). It was a very good drive, but he got very lucky too. This one was certainly very memorable, but he's had better wins.
LE: The laps after his pit stop when the rain started falling were certainly among the best of his career. He took 11.5s out of Sebastian Vettel's lead in just ten laps and, arguably, forced the error that followed at the Sachs Kurve on lap 52. His domination at a wet Silverstone in 2008 is up there too, but that had one error where he cut the chicane at Abbey. The only other one that comes to mind is Bahrain 2014 where he beat Nico Rosberg in a head-to-head battle ... but I'm willing to take the man's word for it and declare Hockenheim 2018 his best ever.
KW: I don't really see how I could possibly be in a position to argue that it wasn't -- he was the one in the cockpit doing the fighting, so does it really matter if anyone out there thinks he's done a better job at another race? Personally I'd point to Hungary 2014 as a highlight, plus Silverstone 2008 -- Hamilton isn't a driver short of spectacular performances.
After news it has been delayed until 2020, do you think we will ever see a Miami Grand Prix?
MH: From the moment three lawsuits arrived within minutes of the announcement, this was never going to be easy. I'd be surprised if it ever happens. Among other things, it hints at Liberty Media's naivety when it comes to staging a motor race in a city.
NS: I hope so, but having looked into the problems Miami has had trying to build its Major League Soccer stadium, it's hard to remain optimistic. F1's biggest failure here was expecting too much too soon from race organisers when it could have set the 2020 deadline from the outset.
LE: The problem with trying to organise a race in an American city is that all the plans have to be made public. Therefore, the usual setbacks that occur for any street race in a democratic country are played out in public view and can look rather embarassing. It seems to me that 2019 was an optimistic timeframe, but if the case for a race is argued correctly I still believe 2020 is possible.
KW: Never say never! It's not looking good, and I have my doubts that we'll see it happen in the next three year cycle, but who knows what's to come? Any change of local government or renewed interest from other investors could reboot the project quickly, while a change of location within city limits might open new doors. Miami don't need us as much as we need them, so I would imagine that Formula 1 are currently hard at work trying to get the Miami train back on the rails, and may offer even more concessions to make the race viable.
Should Hockenheim be back on an F1 calendar in the future?
MH: Definitely. Last weekend was really encouraging with crowds and atmosphere reminiscent of the Hockenheim of old - even including a return of the traffic problems getting out. My understanding is that the financial shortfall is not huge (in F1 terms) and it would be a shame if this can't be resolved. I'm all for preserving the classics if possible.
NS: If it can replicate the atmosphere and crowd numbers from last weekend, then absolutely. One problem Hockenheim had in previous seasons was a lack of interest and publicity. This year's race had a carnival atmosphere -- especially when Vettel took pole and as he arrived on the grid -- and if the circuit can get a more financially agreeable deal it should have more resources to promote future races even better.
LE: Absolutely. There's something that just feels right about F1 at Hockenheim given the history that resides there. When the stadium section is full it is still one of the greatest spectacles in F1, and it would be a real shame to lose that for good. Sunday's race proved there is still interest in F1 in Germany and it would be a disaster for the sport not to give those fans a home race.
KW: No. We had a good race there this week, but the track isn't the Hockenheim of old. The facilities, however, are very much the Hockenheim of old. During the weekend we suffered ridiculous traffic jams thanks to no planning from the local authorities (the 'Ring is a very accessible track, except it isn't); more than one power outage; a press room with an insufficient number of power points (come on people, this is basic!); and Sunday night's rain saw the paddock held hostage to the climate as all access points were flooded for a couple of hours after the race.
We've passed the halfway point of the F1 season. Who are you now tipping to be the champion at the end of November?
MH: After the German GP, who can say!? Which is great -- and typical of this season so far. Ferrari now appear to have the faster car and Mercedes are under the cosh. But then you have a race like Sunday when Ferrari's tactics and Vettel's mistake turn the result on its head. Both teams have given points away and that will continue. But if pushed, I'd say Vettel will nick it.
NS: I can't look past Vettel. He has the package to win it and Mercedes seems to be feeling the pressure a lot more than Ferrari at this stage. Germany was a freak result. With a significant power unit advantage now clear, the title is surely Ferrari's if it can avoid the reliability gremlins which cost them so dearly in 2017.
LE: Based on the relative performance and reliability of the Mercedes and Ferrari up to now, I would say Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari's power unit is making a huge difference right now and Mercedes doesn't appeare to have a response. Yes, Vettel has made a lot of mistakes this year but if he can beat Hamilton in Hungary and reduce the gap in the title race by the summer break, he should have the confidence to accelerate ahead over the coming races.
KW: Still Lewis, although I think he's going to have a massive fight on his hands. Neither he nor Seb will give up the fifth title easily, so the real winner this year should be us, the spectators. If we can see the pair continue to push each other, taking turns to succumb to their rival's pressure, with luck we should see the pendulum swing back and forth until Abu Dhabi.