Lewis Hamilton’s body language after qualifying left little room for doubt that he suspects team mate Nico Rosberg may have deliberately messed up his final lap to stop Hamilton from taking pole.
However, the FIA Stewards disagreed. After reviewing the evidence they decided that there was no case to answer and no further action. Thus, Rosberg keeps his pole position.
Hamilton said that he was over 2/10ths of a second up on the German, when the incident happened at Mirabeau corner. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Hamilton compared the situation to the feud between Senna and Prost in the late 1980s and said: “I like the way Senna dealt with it. I think I’ll take a leaf out of Senna’s book.”
Asked by this website if he felt that this would change the dynamic between him and Rosberg from now on he replied, “potentially”.
Hamilton clearly felt there was something fishy about the way that Rosberg, over two tenths down on Hamilton at that point in the lap, went straight on at Mirabeau and then reversed onto the track, bringing out yellow flags. As one of the cars behind Rosberg on circuit, he was vulnerable to this happening and his lap was blown.
“I’m going to turn this to my advantage,” he pledged, speaking in the media pen after the session. Raising doubts about Rosberg’s integrity here, is certainly one way to use mind games to turn things to his advantage.
This certainly seems to be the tactic, whatever may be decided by the FIA Stewards. The precedent remains so strong in the mind from a previous incident of this kind.
Back in 2006, Michael Schumacher’s crash into the barriers at Rascasse aroused immediate suspicion – Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber were both on target to beat his pole time at that point. And the FIA stewards duly found that he had done it on purpose and demoted him to the back of the grid. This episode was dubbed ‘Crashgate’, however Schumacher never gave any insight into that episode nor admitted any deliberate action.
Ironically, the most vociferous critic of Schumacher that day was Rosberg’s father Keke, who was very outspoken and negative about the seven times champion in comments that shocked Schumacher and Ferrari.
This one is more finely balanced, with some pundits like Damon Hill certain that Rosberg did not do it deliberately, while others are suspicious. There is no prevailing view on this one in the F1 paddock.
The matter went before the FIA stewards, who have better tools and equipment to measure and compare to previous laps and to analyse than back in 2006 and certainly better than any outsider or media pundit. Derek Warwick is the FIA driver steward this weekend and he is both very experienced in that role and a man of integrity.
Rosberg denied that he did it on purpose and told the media that the telemetry will bear him out. “I did the same things as the lap before,” he said.
He went on, “I had a good banker lap and I was pushing it a bit more.
“I just locked up, the outside front, I think it was, or the inside, I’m not sure, and that put me off line,” said Rosberg. “I was still trying to make it but in the last moment I had to turn out because I was going to hit the tyre wall. It was close but I managed to go into the escape road.”
The stewards have accepted the arguments and ruled the matter closed but the debate in the paddock and within the Mercedes camp are likely to go on.