The main talking point from the Belgian Grand Prix was, of course, the controversy caused by the on track coming together between 2005 GP2 Series Champion Nico Rosberg and 2006 GP2 Series Champion Lewis Hamilton. I think the situation was handled appallingly and has not helped the reputation of anyone inside the Mercedes team.
Looking at the move itself, it is my view that we saw a racing incident warranting no investigation by the race stewards. The stewards admitted that they had a small internal discussion whether to investigate it but saw no evidence that one individual driver was at fault. One could argue that Nico could have used the runoff area on the outside of Les Combes. Equally one could argue that, because a significant part of Nico’s car (the front wing being a significant part) was alongside Lewis’, the Briton could have allowed a little more room for maneuver. Discretion being the better part of valour and all that. I’m just splitting hairs here and the move wasn’t the biggest problem from Sunday afternoon.
Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff made a bad call when he openly criticised Rosberg for ending Hamilton’s race and stopping the team from collecting the maximum 43 points on offer that day. Wolff described Rosberg’s driving as “absolutely unacceptable”. Why would such a professional man go on the offensive when team unity is imperative after a bad day? The team is a lot more comparable to a brand or business than a sporting squad which makes Wolff’s comments worse given the reputation of Mercedes as a brand.
Moving swiftly on to the comments made by Hamilton after a post-race debrief between himself, Rosberg and Wolff. The Briton’s accusations were very strong and damning. This is what Hamilton told the written press after the meeting: “It looked quite clear to me but we just had a meeting about it and he basically said he did it on purpose. He said he did it on purpose, he said he could have avoided it. He said ‘I did it to prove a point’, he basically said ‘I did it to prove a point’. And you don’t have to just rely on me, go and ask Toto [Wolff], Paddy [Lowe] and all those guys who are not happy with him as well.”
It can often be difficult to interpret exactly what an individual is trying to say when you’re not hearing the words leave the mouth. With this quote it looks as if Rosberg admitted to deliberately causing a collision in the debrief. However, Hamilton needs to choose his words carefully when he accuses his team mate of using his car as a weapon. To me, the word ‘basically’ stops the accusation from being 100% truthful. I’m not calling Lewis a liar but when such a serious accusation is brought to the attention of the media, one should state facts not tell tales or be rather vague.
Following the accusations, Toto Wolff came to the press and gave a different version of events. The Austrian appeared to be less critical of Rosberg but still upset by the incident. “Nico felt he needed to hold his line. He needed to make a point, and for Lewis, it was clearly not him who needed to be aware of Nico”. Disagreements between drivers is something we’ve grown to expect after collisions. Fair play. “So they agreed to disagree in a very heated discussion amongst ourselves, but it wasn’t deliberately crashing. That is nonsense.” This final comment by Wolff is significant and something I will get on to later. In his post-race video blog released only today, Rosberg downplayed Hamilton’s comments to the press and decided to keep his take on what happened in the debrief “All I can say is that my version of events is very different but it’s just better that I don’t now give all the details of my opinion and things like that. I hope you respect that. I prefer to keep it internal”. It would have been nice to see Nico challenge what has been said by Lewis given the seriousness of the accusation but I think it’s fair enough to respect what he’s said.
Going back to what I said was a significant: “It wasn’t deliberately crashing. That is nonsense.” The British media is completely overlooking this quote from Toto Wolff and running stories with the “absolutely unacceptable” line and Hamilton’s accusations. Media outlets in the UK have an obvious conscious affiliation with Lewis Hamilton given his nationality. There’s nothing that the British public like more than a goody and baddy in sport. This is amplified by Nico being German. It doesn’t irritate me that the media want to create a story because it has always happened and will always happen. The thing that does irritate and aggravate me is that BBC and Sky are making Rosberg out to be more of a villain that he actually is. Wolff’s clearing up comments say that Rosberg didn’t crash deliberately but the aforementioned news outlets are continuing to suggest that the German needs some sort of sanction.
Furthermore on the media front, Sky Sports News HQ had former F1 driver, Sky Sports F1 pundit and professional shit stirrer Johnny Herbert as a guest this morning. I was alerted to his comments by a friend who said Herbert announced that Rosberg’s arrogance is now showing and that he has a history of dangerous driving. Even with a completely neutral head on, I know for a fact that Rosberg has no such history of dangerous driving. He is known for not even being aggressive on the race track. Herbert referenced Bahrain 2012 when Rosberg apparently forced Hamilton and Fernando Alonso off the circuit. If my memory serves me correctly, the moves in question here were investigated by the stewards after the race and no further action was taken because Rosberg’s maneuvers were continuous moves. This is further evidence that Rosberg is being made out to be even more than a pantomime villain than is necessary. The story here is being aggravated.
To help the situation it would be desired if the media reported the most recent facts of the story and updated viewers and readers of any news that comes to light. I might be living in a dream world wishing for that, though.
Let’s just see what happens in two weeks time in Monza and we may no longer have a situation which is as clear as mud.